Belgian authorities have made multiple arrests in the days following the Brussels airport and metro station attacks, which claimed the lives of 31 people.
During a series of raids across Brussels, authorities captured one suspect in the district of Schaerbeek on Friday. Police exchanged gunfire with the suspect during the intense operation in which witnesses said they heard multiple explosions. The arrest was confirmed by Schaerbeek Mayor Bernard Clerfayt, who told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF the suspect was wounded.
As many as 10 suspects have been arrested in Belgium, France, and Germany, the BBC reports. The manhunt continues, however, for an unidentified suspect seen in airport surveillance footage alongside two suicide bombers prior to the attack.
The suicide bombers, allegedly extremists acting on behalf of the Islamic State, have been identified as Ibrahim El-Bakraoui, 30, and Najim Laachraoui, 24.
Laachraoui, a Moroccan native with a Belgian passport, is thought to be the bomb-maker responsible for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, which killed 130 people. Traveling under the alias “Soufiane Kayal,” Laachraoui was last seen in September 2015, in the company of Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested on March 18, at a checkpoint along the Hungary-Austria border.
Laachraoui’s DNA was allegedly discovered on explosive materials and in two safe houses used by the Paris attackers.
Laachraoui reportedly travelled to Syria in 2013. At a news conference on Friday, his 20-year-old brother, Mourad, said his family had contacted police after learning Laachraou’s destination. A “nice boy” and a “very good student,” he showed no warning signs of being radicalized before breaking off all contact with his family, the brother said.
El-Bakraoui, reportedly a dual-citizen of Belgium and the Bahamas, was known to authorities and reportedly spent nine years in prison after shooting at police with an assault rifle during a robbery gone bad. Last year, he was deported from Turkey to the Netherlands on suspicion of being a militant. Despite being the subject of an Interpol “red notice,” he was able to slip back into Belgium.
On March 22, at approximately 7:58am, El-Bakraoui detonated a bomb inside the departure hall of the Zaventem airport alongside Laachraoui, killing himself, 11 others and injuring 90. His brother, Belgian Khalid El-Bakraoui, 24, detonated the bomb at the Maelbeek metro station roughly an hour later, officials said, killing himself, 14 others and injuring 130.
Khalid El-Bakraoui was reportedly arrested in 2011 for possession of Kalashnikov rifles and spent five years in prison for carjackings. His fingerprints were discovered in an apartment in the Forest area of Belgium, alongside those of Abdeslam, whom authorities have portrayed as the “mastermind” behind the Paris attacks.
Photo via Miguel Discart/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)