Second Brussels airport bomber identified, six detained in raids

The second suicide bomber who died at the Brussels airport this week has been identified as a man wanted in connection with last year's Paris terrorist attacks, Belgian prosecutors said Friday, while further suspects were being questioned.

Investigators are still trying to piece together who orchestrated and carried out Tuesday's killings in Brussels, which left at least 31 dead and 300 injured at the airport and a central subway station.

Their findings are increasingly pointing to a link between those suicide bombings and the Paris attacks in November, which killed 130 people at the Stade de France football stadium, the Bataclan concert hall, restaurants and bars.

Belgian media had been reporting for days that the second suicide bomber to have died at the Brussels airport was Najim Laachraoui, who had long been wanted by police as part of the investigation into the Paris attacks.

The prosecutors confirmed Friday that 24-year-old Belgian national Laachraoui indeed had died at the airport, alongside 29-year-old Ibrahim El Bakraoui. His brother, 27-year-old Khalid El Bakraoui, died while carrying out the attack on the Maelbeek subway station.

Both Laachraoui and Khalid El Bakraoui are suspected of having rented real estate in Belgium used by the Paris suspects.

Traces of Laachraoui's DNA were also found on two explosive vests used by Paris attackers at the Bataclan and Stade de France, the Belgian prosecutors confirmed Friday.

Investigators are still searching for a fourth suspect in the Brussels attacks - a man who brought a bomb to the airport on Tuesday, but then left.

Police detained six people for questioning during raids carried out in Brussels on Thursday evening, but later released three of them.

The newspaper Le Soir said that one person still in custody, identified only as Faycal C, may well be the suspect being sought from the airport bombing. But other Belgian media said they could not confirm this.

In Germany, meanwhile, police said Friday that they had arrested two men in connection with the Brussels attacks. Security officials said one suspect had messages on his mobile phone linking him to the suicide bombings.

On Friday, police also carried out three new raids in Brussels, two of which were however not linked to this week's attacks, but the arrest in France on Thursday of 34-year-old Reda Kriket - a man said to have been in the advanced stages of planning a terrorist attack.

Kriket had links to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, according to the broadcaster iTele. Belgian prosecutors said that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year for terrorist activities and had been sought internationally since August.

The ensuing two raids on Friday morning in Brussels led to the detention of two people, one of which was injured in the leg, prosecutors said.

During the third raid in the neighbourhood of Schaerbeek on Friday afternoon, another person also injured in the leg was taken into custody.

According to some media, this raid was connected to Kriket's arrest too, but local mayor Bernard Clerfayt told the state broadcaster RTBF that the detained person was linked to the Brussels attacks.

The new raids took place as US Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting the Belgian capital, offering his country's help for the investigation into Tuesday's attacks.

He also expressed confidence that the Islamic State extremist group, which has claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings, would be destroyed.

Belgium is part of a US-led coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Michel said Belgian F-16 fighter jets will once again take part in the airstrikes, with Belga reporting that their operations should resume in the summer. Belgium in the past carried out airstrikes in Iraq, but will now consider taking action in Syria too.

In a message to terrorists globally, Kerry vowed that the international community will not "rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of this Earth."

In al Raqqa, the de-facto capital of Islamic State, the Imam of its biggest mosque vowed during Friday prayers that more attacks would target "the crusaders in Europe and America," according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Imam said Islamic State's warriors are already scattered in these areas and waiting for the right moment to carry out new attacks.

Last update: Fri, 25/03/2016 - 18:29

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