The man shown wearing a bucket hat and heavy white jacket in a video surveillance still from Brussels’ airport has been identified as Najim Laachraoui, European authorities told news outlets today. This is the same man suspected of building the bombs used in the Paris attacks last November. He’s also the only living suspect still at large related to those attacks.
Late yesterday it was reported that the hat wearing man in the picture had been arrested, although it now seems as if those reports stemmed from a case of mistaken identity. As far as we know, the manhunt for Laachraoui continues.
Laachraoui, who is 24 years old, supposedly left for Syria in 2013 where he is thought to have been trained by ISIS operatives, the UK’s Independent reported. Belgian law enforcement has been looking for him for more than three years now. Laachraoui reportedly went to a prestigious Roman-Catholic high school and graduated with training in electro-mechanical engineering.
This knowledge likely made him an obvious candidate for training in bomb making by ISIS in Syria. It also makes him very valuable to the terror group, and as such it makes sense why he himself did not execute suicide attacks in Paris and now in Brussels.
Laachraoui is also closely connected with Salah Abdeslam, one of the ring-leaders of the Paris attacks who was just arrested last Friday.
The man in the center of the airport surveillance photo is Ibrahim El Bakraoui. He and his brother Khalid El Bakraoui were both identified as suicide bombers in yesterday’s terror strikes, with one blowing himself up at the airport and the other blowing himself up in the metro station. Both men had prior records and were known by Belgian law enforcement.
The flat raided yesterday that had ISIS paraphernalia and a large shrapnel bomb is said to have belonged to the brothers.
A taxi driver that supposedly drove the men to the airport has been a key source that has accelerated the investigation following yesterday’s attacks. Express writes:
“The taxi driver also took the terrorists to an apartment in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek where an Islamic State (ISIS) flag, an explosive device containing nails and chemicals were found by police yesterday.
A computer which has been deemed an object of interest was found by terror officers yesterday, according to Belgian newspaper La Libre. Its contents are unknown by it is understood it has messages linked to ISIS.
It has also emerged the airport bombings could have been even more fatal after the taxi driver said the men wanted to place more luggage in his vehicle but he told them there was not enough space.”
USA Today reports that suicide note found on the computer belonging to one of the brothers stated that “he felt increasingly unsafe and did not want to end up in jail.” This would lend weight to the popular theory that last week’s arrest of Salah Abdeslam likely accelerated the timeline of the attack.
The third man on the far left of the photo is yet to be identified by police. As of this morning, 31 are now said to have been killed in the attacks with 270 wounded.