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Brussels bombers had direct links to Paris attackers

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The suspects believed to be behind the Brussels attacks. Photo: AFP
08:30 CET+01:00
Three suspected suicide bombers involved in the Brussels attacks have been named and it's emerged they had clear links to the Paris attackers.

Belgian state broadcaster RTBF have released the names of two of the suspected suicide bombers involved in Tuesday's attack at Brussels airport and on the Metro.

They are said to be brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui. The pair were well know to police as longstanding criminals.

Quoting a police source RTBF say Ibrahim (pictured above in the centre of the photo and below in the tweet) was one of the men who targeted the airport while his brother Khalid was behind the suicide bombing at Maelbeek metro station.

 

This has not been officially confirmed by authorities. If RTBF are right then the second airport bomber, presumed to be the man in the tweet below, remains unidentified.

The El-Bakraoui brothers had clear links to the jihadists who carried out the deadly attacks in Paris in November and in particular to Salah Abdeslam, the chief surviving suspect of the Paris attacks who was captured on Friday.

Khalid El Bakraoui, used a false name to rent the flat in the Forest area of Brussels which was the scene last Tuesday (March 15th) of gun battle between police and unknown suspects.

Algerian Mohamed Belkaid was shot and killed during the police raid, but authorities later confirmed that two gunmen were able to escape.

There were suggestions that one of the fugitives was Salah Abdeslam, who was eventually tracked down and arrested last Friday in Molenbeek, but that was never confirmed by police. It's now possible that it was the el-Bakraoui brothers who fled the flat under a hail of bullets.

The same brother who rented the Forest flat also rented out a hideout in the town of Charleroi that had been used by the Paris cell before the November attacks.

Second airport bomber named

One of the brothers is also suspected of providing ammunition and weapons for the Paris attacks. The pair were among the Paris suspects on the run and being hunted by Belgian police.

(The two El-Bakraoui brothers and Salah Abdeslam in the middle)

 

On Wednesday the third suspect  was was named by Belgium media as Najim Laachraoui (see photo below). He was already wanted by police in connection with the Paris attacks.

Belgian media had reported that Laachraoui has been arrested in Anderlecht on Wednesday morning, but later in the morning those reports were proved to be premature as authorities denied the arrest.

There was a further twist later on Tuesday was named as the second airport bomber on the left of the photo below.

DNA Laachraoui, 24, was found at an apartment in Brussels where bomb-making equipment and one of Abdeslam's fingerprints had been found in December.

His DNA was also found on explosives used in the Paris attacks. Prosecutors have said Laachraoui "travelled to Syria in February 2013," and was registered under a false name at the border between Austria and Hungary last September.

He was travelling with Abdeslam and Mohamed Belkaid, who was killed in a Brussels raid three days before Abdeslam was captured.

Belkaid is believed to have provided logistical support to the Paris

The third man, pictured in the photo above on the right dressed in white, has still not been identified and police in Brussels are appealing for information to find him.
 
It is believed he fled the airport after failing to detonate the bomb he was pushing in his trolley.
 
Salah Abdeslam was said to have been planning an attack in Brussels. Prosecutors have said he was "cooperating" with investigators, but whatever they gleaned from him was not enough to prevent Tuesday's attacks.

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There was speculation that the bombings may have been to revenge Abdeslam's arrest, but most experts belive it was more likely that a planned attack was simply brought forward, perhaps out of fear that Abdeslam would give them up.

Did he give them up too late from police to stop the bombings or did he keep the plan hidden from investigators? Given his links it would be surprising if he knew nothing about the plan to attack the airport and the Metro.

Intelligence services, will come under more scrutiny over whether they could have prevented Tuesday's bombings given the names of the attackers were on their radar.

Speaking on Wednesday morning French PM Manuel Valls said:"At this stage more than 30 people have been identified as linked to the Paris attacks. Eleven are dead, 12 are under lock and key and others are still wanted." 
 
"Were some of them involved in the Paris attacks? We will see, the investigation will reveal this," he added.
 
"These attacks are organised from Syria... with a base, it is obvious, in Belgium but also in France."

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