One of the Brussels bombers was arrested in Turkey and deported back to Belgium in June with a warning that he was a militant, it was sensationally revealed this afternoon.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who yesterday blew himself up at Brussels Airport, was arrested in Gaziantep in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border last summer. Officials said he was deported to Holland before being passed back over to Belgium.
The president said Belgian authorities had failed to confirm the suspect’s links to terrorism ‘despite our warnings that he was a foreign fighter’.
The revelation came as it was dramatically revealed this evening that the identity of the ‘Man in White’, who was previously thought to be explosives expert Najim Laachraoui, remains a mystery.
It emerged as it was revealed that Laachraoui has actually been identified as the other airport suicide bomber, who was pictured on the left-hand side on CCTV footage showing the three ISIS suspects wheeling their suitcases into the terminal prior to the deadly bombing.
Ibrahim and Laachraoui killed 14 people and injured dozens of others when they set off suicide vests and explosives-packed at Brussels airport.
Earlier today, it emerged that Ibrahim left a suicide note telling how he was desperate to blow himself up because he did not want to go to prison like his friend, the Paris logistics chief Salah Abdeslam.
The typed note, found next to 15kg of homemade explosives, an AK-47 and an ISIS flag, said: ‘I don’t know what to do. I’m in a hurry. I’m on the run. People are looking for me everywhere. And if I give myself up then I’ll end up in a cell.’
The latest twist came after Belgian brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui were named as two of the ISIS suicide bombers–eight days after they escaped police in a gunfight–and it is now clear there is a mystery fourth suicide bomber.
Laachraoui is suspected of rigging up the suicide vests that helped kill 34 in twin attacks yesterday and is believed to have done the same for the Paris terrorists who murdered 130 in November.
He went on the run after leaving a suitcase packed with explosives and calmly walked from the terminal moments before the airport massacre at 8am Tuesday. Today federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said it was the largest of all the bombs but it failed to go off.
Just 79 minutes after the first attack Khalid El Bakraoui detonated his suicide vest on a Brussels Metro train at Maelbeek station killing 20 people.
The possible fourth bomber pictured on CCTV in the airport is believed to have blown himself up alongside Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who police say was identified by his fingerprints.
Laachraoui was already one of the world’s most wanted men, having built the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks and went on the run with Salah Abdeslam, one of the other Paris massacre masterminds, before hiding in Brussels for four months.
Today it emerged there could have been another suitcase bomb set off in the airport but the ISIS fanatics couldn’t fit all their explosive-packed bags into a taxi outside their safehouse. They refused to let the driver touch the bags–prompting him to later contact the police about their suspicious behaviour.
Investigators are also desperate to track down Mohamed Abrini–a close friend of the Man in White and Salah Abdeslam–for his possible involvement in the mass slaughter in the Belgium capital on Tuesday.
Yesterday’s twin terror attacks on the Belgian capital left at least 34 people dead and are believed to have been revenge for Saleh Abdeslam’s capture. Experts believe the jihadists launched the Brussels attacks because the net was closing in on their terror cell.
Belgium’s prosecutor said this afternoon that Ibrahim El Bakraoui’s will, found in a bin, said he was ‘on the run’ and did not ‘know what to do’–but added he was ‘in a hurry’ and ‘didn’t want to end up in a cell like him’–a reference to his friend Abdeslam.
All of the men named as bombers today were ‘well known’ to detectives because of their links to ISIS and all had significant criminal records. The El Bakraoui brothers had been in jail recently for gun smuggling, burglary and car crime.
Most recently they had been on the run since Tuesday March 15 following a shoot-out in a terrorist hideout in the Belgian capital’s Forest suburb. They opened fire on police and fled.
The raid carried out last Tuesday on a flat in the suburb of Forest saw a sniper kill terror suspect Mohamed Belkaid while the El Bakraoui brothers managed to escape police.
There was initial speculation that the raid had aimed to capture Paris-terrorist Salah Abdeslam, but he escaped through a loft window, but this was later denied by a police spokesman.
Officers had been acting on a tip-off in connection to the Paris terror attacks, and carried out the raid in Forest, which is close to Molenbeek, where several jihadis behind the Paris attacks lived and is known as the cradle of terrorism in Europe.
Yet the group still managed to find another address to stay, where they stored the explosives and guns used in Tuesday’s attacks.
Police have also confirmed today that those who carried it out have were part of a larger cell who carried out the Paris attacks four months ago.
Khalid El Bakraoui also rented the apartment where Paris terror attacker Salah Abdeslam was captured by anti-terror police last Friday, according to respected Belgium news organisation RTL.
Belgium started three days of mourning today after the bombings claimed the lives of 34 and left more than 250 injured in 79 minutes of rush hour carnage. The dead and injured have 40 different nationalities, including two Britons.
Despite a Government warning to stay at home thousands have gathered in the centre of the city to light candles, leave flowers and write messages of hope on the ground in defiance of the terrorists who carried out the the worst terror attacks in Belgium’s history.
American Mormon missionary Mason Wells, 19, was injured in the horrifying Brussels airport terrorist attack after having previously survived the Boston bombing and the Paris attacks. He suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, injuries from shrapnel and second- and third-degree burns on his face and hands after the bombing.
Chad Wells, Mason’s father, told ABC News: ‘This is his third terrorist attack’ adding he and Mason were a block from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where the bombing took place in 2013. The teen was also in Paris last year during the attacks.
Belkaid, an Algerian national who was illegally in Belgium, was found with an ISIS flag, AK-47 assault rifle and a book of jihadist literature next to his body.
At the time police said: ‘two persons [the El Bakraoui brothers] who were probably in the flat fled the scene and are being tracked down’.
Less than one week later, Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui carried out the terrorist attack at Brussels airport and as passengers queued to check in for flights at around 8am local time (7am GMT) the first blast rang out.
People fled towards the entrance of Brussels Zaventem Airport, a second much bigger blast in front of them brought down much of the ceiling and sent razor-sharp shrapnel, body parts and clouds of thick dust and smoke billowing through the building.
According to Belgian news website 7sur7, Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2010 for firing at police with an AK-47 assault rifle during a robbery.
Khalid was also given a five-year jail term in early 2011 for possessing AK-47s and committing a series of car-jackings, it was reported. It is not clear when they were released from prison.
Their use of Kalashnikovs, a signature weapon for ISIS and other extremist groups, will raise questions about why they were not monitored more closely by security services.
Belgian terror expert Pieter Van Ostaeyen says French prosecutor indicating that Abdeslam had started talking to police may have triggered the attacks.
‘The three terrorists thought their network would be exposed and carried out their terror plan before this happened as a pre-emptive move,’ he told Aftonbladet.
‘It happened today [Tuesday], maybe weeks or months before the planned date.
‘The French prosecutor should not have talked so much. He sent out the wrong signals to the ISIS network still intact in Europe, so it was high time for them to act and that’s exactly what happened.
‘The Belgian police investigation was leaking, and that’s why it happened now,’ he adds.
Belgian intelligence services are already under intense pressure to explain a number of failures that have allowed members of the ISIS cell to operate under their noses in the capital.
The taxi driver who drove the bombers to the airport led police to their hideout after the men refused to let him touch their luggage. After the explosions he contacted the authorities.
Armed police in vans and helicopters then flooded in the district of Shaerbeek, north-east Brussels and found a nail bomb, chemicals and an Islamic State flag in a flat.
The disturbing discoveries were made as officers searched properties in the district of Shaerbeek, north-east Brussels, where two Paris suspects are believed to have lived in the wake of the attacks.
Najim Laachraoui, a newly-identified ISIS suspect whose DNA was found on bombs used in the Paris terror attacks, had rented a suspected hideout in Schaarbeek.
And Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam is believed to have been holed up in an apartment in Schaerbeek for three weeks after the massacre in France.
‘The searches that took place in the Schaerbeek (district) found an explosive device containing among other things nails,’ the federal prosecutor said in a statement.
‘Investigators also discovered chemicals and a flag of the Islamic State,’ the statement added.
Incredibly, Abdeslam–arrested on Friday, may have been hiding in nearby Molenbeek for four months since the deadly Paris terror attacks.
And another suspect–named as Amine Choukri–was arrested by Belgian anti-terror police when he was found living with Abdeslam having entered Europe via Greece.
The brother of Belgium’s public enemy number one is a medal-winning athlete who has proudly represented his country–and is ashamed of his terrorist brother, MailOnline can reveal.
Najim Laachraoui–the ‘man in white’ filmed walking through Brussel’s Zaventem Airport with suicide bombers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui–is the younger brother Mourad Laachraoui, who represents Belgium in Taekwondo.
Mourad has distanced himself from his terrorist younger brother Najim, and the family, who are of Moroccan descent, are deeply ashamed of his fanatical opinions and murderous activities.
The blasts, which detonated near a Starbucks branch and several check-in desks, sent shockwaves through the terminal, shattering windows and knocking roof tiles off the ceiling as terrified passengers ran for their lives.
Initial reports suggested at least one of the explosions was the result of a suicide bombing. The other device may have been in a suitcase packed with nails and bolts placed at a check-in desk.
At least 14 people were killed and dozens more injured as Islamic State killers struck in Belgium four months after the Paris terror attacks that cost 130 lives. Eyewitnesses spoke of chaos as injured passengers staggered around or cowered under check-in desks as scattered suitcases and choking smoke filled the terminal.
Others ran for their lives, their clothes torn and bloodied, dodging numerous nails flying through the air, small fires and stepping over dismembered bodies, fallen ceiling tiles and shards of glass.
Later police reportedly found two Kalashnikov assault rifles next to the body of an attacker. An unused explosive belt was also discovered in the ruins of the airport, public broadcaster VRT said.
Shocking images from Maelbeek station show the mangled remains of the train, smoke pouring out of the building and casualties littered on the pavement outside–just 400metres from the EU’s headquarters.
The death toll was expected to rise after a spokesman for the Brussels Metro said ten of the injured were ‘very seriously’ wounded. Survivors described hearing a loud bang before they were evacuated from trains and forced to walk along darkened tracks to the closest safe station. Wiping blood from his face, Alexandre Brans, 32, said: ‘It was panic everywhere.’
About 300 Belgians are estimated to have fought with Islamists in Syria, making the country of 11 million the leading European exporter of foreign fighters and a focus of concern in France and other neighbours over its security capabilities.
Revealed: Bomber brothers were gangland criminals and wanted by Interpol–but were STILL able to provide ammunition for Paris attacks and rent flat for Brussels mastermind
Two brothers who blew themselves up in Brussels were able to evade security services despite being notorious gangland criminals and placed on a worldwide terror watchlist, it emerged today.
Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui were today named as two of the ISIS suicide bombers who rocked the Belgian capital yesterday, killing 34 people and wounding more than 270 others.
Their involvement provides for the first time a direct link between the Brussels attacks and the ISIS massacre in Paris that killed 130 people in November.
It has since emerged that they each extensive criminal record and were both jailed several years ago for shocking crimes involving Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Khalid was also listed on an Interpol ‘red notice’–an alert to police forces around the world saying that he was wanted in Belgium on terrorism charges.
Yet they were still allowed to play a major role for ISIS, providing ammunition and renting out a number of safe houses where the Brussels and Paris attacks were plotted before martyring themselves.
Ibrahim blew himself up in the check-in hall of Zaventem airport while Khalid attacked a metro train at Maalbeek station near the EU headquarters, Frederic van Leeuw told a news conference.
Ibrahim, 30, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2010 for shooting at police with a Kalashnikov during a robbery.
He has been on the run since breaching parole terms last year.
Khalid, 27, was jailed for five years in 2011 for possessing AK-47 machine guns and committing a series of car-jackings.
Their use of Kalashnikovs, a signature weapon for ISIS and other extremist groups, will raise questions about why they were not monitored more closely by intelligence services.
The revelations are the latest in a series of failures by security chiefs facing damaging questions about why the siblings and other members of the cell were able to slip through the net.
Both were released early from prison–although it is not clear when.