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Paris attacks fugitive Laachraoui named as second Brussels airport bomber

AFP | Najim Laachraoui has been identified as the second Brussels airport bomber

Najim Laachraoui, a Belgian wanted by authorities in connection with the November 13 Paris attacks, has been named by police sources as one of three suspected suicide bombers who killed at least 31 people and injured 270 in Brussels on Tuesday.

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Belgian and international media cited police sources as saying that Laachraoui was the second bomber in the attack on Brussels airport.

Federal prosecutors earlier on Wednesday identified Ibrahim El-Bakraoui as one of the three suspects who targeted the airport, and his brother Khalid El-Bakraoui as the Maelbeek metro bombing suspect.

Laachraoui, 24, is suspected of being one of the explosive experts and co-ordinators of the Paris attacks, after his DNA was found on explosive belts used in both the attack on the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France, suggesting he not only handled them but may also have built them. 

Under the alias of "Soufiane Kayal" he rented a home in the town of Auvelais, in southern Belgium, which was used by the jihadists to prepare the November attacks. Investigators believe he was in phone contact with the terrorists that night.

This was also the name he gave when he was stopped at the Austria-Hungary border with Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving participant of the Paris attacks, and Mohamed Belkaïd, another suspected co-ordinator of the Paris attacks, in September 2015.

Since he was travelling under a false identity, police were unaware that he was the subject of an international arrest warrant, issued in March 2014, for recruiting fighters for the Islamic State group.

Laachraoui was only publicly identified as a Paris attacks suspect on Monday.

Laachraoui went to Syria in February 2013 and reportedly returned to Europe posing as a refugee. In February he was tried in absentia for involvement in a recruiting network of Belgians who left for Syria, in which the prosecutor called for him to be handed a 15-year prison sentence.

Moroccan-born Laachraoui has Belgian nationality and was raised in the Schaerbeek neighbourhood of Brussels, where police conducted searches shortly after the city's airport and metro attacks. He is believed to have studied electromechanical engineering at a Catholic high school, the Institut de la Sainte-Famille d’Helmet.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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