Sunday 25 September 2016

Mystery Isil attacker still on the run as police reveal suicide note

Henry Samuel and Robert Mendick

Published 24/03/2016 | 02:30

People gather at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels yesterday. Belgian authorities were searching yesterday for a top suspect in the country’s deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union’s capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport. Photo: AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi
People gather at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels yesterday. Belgian authorities were searching yesterday for a top suspect in the country’s deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union’s capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport. Photo: AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi
Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and Khalid el-Bakraoui

One of two brothers who blew themselves up in the Brussels attacks left an audio suicide note claiming he was carrying out the bombing in preference to being caught and sent to jail.

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The recorded declaration of Ibrahim el-Bakraoui was found on an audio file on his laptop. He had dumped the computer in a dustbin on Rue Max Rose, a street in the Schaerbeek neighbourhood of Brussels where the terrorists had set up a bomb-making factory.

The emergence of the suicide note was the latest dramatic revelation 24 hours after the attacks on Brussels that left at least 31 dead and 270 wounded.

El-Bakraoui (29) was seen in the centre of a CCTV image wheeling his suitcase packed with explosives through the departure hall of Brussels Airport in the minutes before the attack.

It was disclosed yesterday that his brother, Khalid el-Bakraoui (27) was the suicide bomber who detonated his explosives in the second carriage of a train at Maalbeek metro station, a little over an hour after the airport bombs.

It left prosecutors unsure of the identities of two of the men in the CCTV footage. It was reported last night that the man on the left, also dressed in black and, like el-Bakraoui wearing a single black glove, possibly to hide the detonator, was Najim Laachraoui. He was the terror cell's bombmaker and is now said to have died in the airport explosion.

The identity of the man on the right, wearing a hat and white coat, is not known.

In a press conference yesterday, Frederic Van Leeuw, the Belgian federal prosecutor, said Ibrahim el- Bakraoui had left a note on his laptop. It was later claimed it was contained in an audio file. Mr van Leeuw said: "In a dustbin in the same street, detectives found a laptop containing the will of Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, which said: 'I am always on the move, I don't know what to do, I'm being hunted everywhere and am no longer safe. If I go on like this [I] will end up in a prison cell next to him." It is unclear whether the word "him" was a reference to Salah Abdeslam, the suspected Paris bomber who was arrested last week and is "cooperating" with interrogators.

Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgian jihad expert, said Abdeslam's arrest accelerated the attacks. "This was not revenge for the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, but about bringing forward existing plans for fear that he would speak under pressure and so would expose them and their plans," he said.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed yesterday Ibrahim el- Bakraoui had been arrested in June last year in southern Turkey and sent back to Europe. Turkey insisted it had warned Belgium that el-Bakraoui "was a foreign fighter" but that those warnings had been ignored.

It was claimed he was sent from Turkey to the Netherlands rather than Belgium and that el-Bakraoui demanded he be deported there rather than his home country.

The Belgian prosecutor insisted yesterday the two brothers were well-known to police and "had a heavy past criminal record not linked to terrorism". On September 30, 2010, Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison for opening fire on police with a Kalashnikov rifle during an armed robbery. Belgian media said this was on a Western Union agency on Boulevard Adolphe Max in Brussels.

Khalid was reportedly sentenced to five years' probation in 2012 for carjackings. He was found to have Kalashnikovs in his possession when arrested.

It suggests the brothers may have been radicalised at a later date, possibly in jail. Prosecutors also revealed that the first explosion in the airport was detonated at aisle 11 in the departure hall at "precisely 7.58am and 28 seconds" and that nine seconds later, "at 7.58am and 37 seconds, a second explosion went off at aisle two".

It is thought passengers fleeing the first smaller bomb ran straight towards the second, placed near a Starbucks cafe and the terminal exit.

Mr Van Leeuw revealed a third bomb, in the possession of the man in the white coat, had failed to detonate. "His bag contained the biggest explosive charge," said the prosecutor.

The trio had arrived at the airport by taxi. The driver had picked the men up from an apartment in Rue Max Rose. Following the bombings, he tipped police off about the whereabouts of the flat raided last night.

The driver had been suspicious because the men had refused to let him handle their baggage and had complained his car was too small. Two bags were left behind in the apartment as a consequence.

Irish Independent

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