By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — One of two suicide bombers who hit the Brussels airport was the suspected bombmaker in the November attacks in Paris, suggesting that the attacks involved the same Islamic State cell, European officials said on March 23.
Belgian, French, and European authorities told Belgian news media, AFP, and the Associated Press that Najim Laachraoui’s DNA was verified as that of one of the airport bombers on March 22 after samples were taken from remains found at the blast site.
The officials said they had been looking for Laachraoui since last week, suspecting he was an accomplice of top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested on March 18.
Laachraoui, 24, a Morrocan-born Belgian, is believed to have made the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks that killed 130 people, as his DNA was found on all of the vests as well as in a Brussels apartment where they were made.
Laachraoui also was believed to be a one-time recruiter for Islamic State.
His involvement suggests the Brussels and Paris attacks were carried out by “the same team,” French senator Nathalie Goulet, the head of a parliamentary commission studying jihadi networks, told AP.
The revelation about Laachraoui came as Brussels residents struggled to regain a semblance of normal life and authorities identified two other suicide bombers that struck the city’s airport and subway as brothers.
Federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said that airport bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui had left a will on a computer before the attacks, which killed at least 31 people.
Bakraoui’s brother Khalid blew himself up in a subway car at Maalbeek station in central Brussels, Van Leeuw told a news conference.
“The [subway] suicide bomber was identified by his fingerprints. He is Khalid el-Bakraoui, Ibrahim’s brother, born in Brussels on January 12, 1989, a Belgian national,” Van Leeuw said. “The two dead terrorists had a heavy criminal record not linked to terrorism.”
Laachraoui was one of two men shown pushing baggage carts with Ibrahim El Bakraoui in widely publicized security-camera footage before the bombs went off. Investigators said the other is believed to have left the scene after depositing a bag stuffed with explosives at the airport. He has not been identified or apprehended.
Van Leeuw said his bag, which had the heaviest load of explosives, blew up after the arrival of bomb squads and caused no injuries.
He said a taxi driver who drove the three suspects to the airport led authorities to an apartment in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels where police found bomb-making equipment, including 15 kilograms of TATP explosives and a suitcase packed with nails and bolts.
Investigators discovered a computer containing Bakraoui’s will in a garbage container close to the apartment, the prosecutor said. He said Bakraoui described himself as “not knowing what to do anymore, being searched for everywhere, no longer being safe.”
Bakraoui also expressed fears of ending up in prison if he continued to “drag on,” he said.