Najim Laachraoui: Brussels attacks suspect still at large as identity of second suicide bomber caught on CCTV remains mystery

Police issued a wanted alert after he was pictured in Brussels Airport with suicide bombers 

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 23 March 2016 10:52 GMT
Najim Laachraoui is a suspect in the Brussels Airport bombing and has links to Salah Abdeslam
Najim Laachraoui is a suspect in the Brussels Airport bombing and has links to Salah Abdeslam

A suspected Isis bomb maker believed to be part of the terror attacks that killed more than 30 people in Brussels is still on the run, authorities have confirmed.

Najim Laachraoui was captured on CCTV at Brussels Airport with two suicide bombers, prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said. The suitcase he was wheeling through the terminal on a luggage trolley carried the largest explosive charge but did not go off and was deactivated by the army.

Two more suitcases left at the address the trio were picked up from in a taxi were found to contain explosives, nails and screws, suggesting a far larger death toll was planned.

One of the men has been identified as Brahim el-Bakraoui, whose brother Khalid is reported to have blown himself up at Maalbeek Metro station, while the name of the third man pictured on the left is unknown.

Airport CCTV shows the suspects, including the suspected surviving attacker, right (Belgian Federal Police)

The taxi driver who transported them reportedly told investigators they had wanted to take five cases to Brussels Airport but only had room for three.

The remaining luggage was found at a flat in the Brussels suburb of Schaerbeek alongside bomb-making equipment and and Isis flag, officials said.

La Derniere Heure had earlier quoted anonymous police sources saying that Laachraoui had been detained by armed police on Wednesday morning, but later backtracked on its claims.

"Contrary to what we announced, the man arrested in Anderlecht is not Najim Laachraoui," its website read.

The world mourns for Brussels

Journalists from De Tijd and EenVandaag subsequently claimed the arrested man, who has not been identified, was found at a pizza restaurant but the report has not been confirmed.

A suspicious pizza order allegedly alerted police to Salah Abdeslam's wherabouts last week, while empty pizza boxes were also found littering hotel rooms used by the Paris attackers to prepare for November's massacres.

Laachraoui is believed to be the only suspect remaining on the run following Tuesday's attacks, where brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui died in bombings at Brussels airport and Maalbeek Metro station.

Under his alias Soufiane Kayal, the 25-year-old had been wanted for months as a suspected bomb maker linked to the Paris attacks after his DNA was found alongside that of the terrorists who carried out the massacres at a safe house where traces of explosives and suicide belts were found.

He also rented one of the hide-outs, in Auvelais, where the cell prepared for the massacres that would kill 130 people in the French capital.

Laachraoui was picked up in Budapest by Salah Abdeslam, possibly making his way back from Syria, on 9 September alongside Mohamed Belkaid, the 35-year-old Algerian killed by police in Forest on 15 March.

The net has been tightening on the remaining accomplices following Belkaid's death and Abdeslam's eventual arrest on Friday and there was speculation that Tuesday's attacks were either an act of revenge or the fulfilment of plots Abdeslam claimed had already been hatched.

The airport explosions, followed little over an hour later by another blast at a Metro station, left at least 31 dead and 250 wounded.

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