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Manhunt underway for Brussels Attackers

VOA
Police search passenger bags at the Central Station in Brussels, March 23, 2016.
Police search passenger bags at the Central Station in Brussels, March 23, 2016.

Belgian authorities continue searching for one of the men believed to be responsible for Tuesday's airport and metro bombings in Brussels, which killed at least 31 people and wounded 271 others.

Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw confirmed that two brothers, Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, were the suicide bombers killed in the attacks.

Khalid blew himself up on a metro train at the Maelbeek station, according to Van Leeuw. Authorities have not confirmed the identities of the other two men seen in CCTV footage at the airport, he said.

Van Leew said one of the suicide bombers left a will in a trash can at the airport. Authorities have also found a large amount of explosives, detonators, and a suitcase full of nails during a raid at a house in the Schaerbeek neighborhood of the capital, he said.

Earlier Belgian media reported one of the men was 25-year-old Najim Laachraoui, who had been arrested by police. The report was later retracted, and Van Leeuw confirmed no one has been arrested in connection with the Belgium attacks.

Brussels on Wednesday held a minute of silence for the victims of the attacks, which have been claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.

The Place de la Bourse in Brussels, the public square where mourners have been bringing flowers and mementos, was filled with people bundled against the spring chill and dark skies Wednesday.

First they stood silent for a full moment, and then spontaneously broke out into applause, in a defiant show of solidarity. A shout of "Long live the Belgians!" was met with another round of applause.

But much of the city remains on lockdown. The Brussels Airport said it would remain closed through Thursday "because the forensic investigation is still underway."

"Until we can assess the damage, we are unable to confirm when operations at the airport can be resumed," the airport said in a statement. Authorities are now looking into the backgrounds of those believed to be responsible for the blasts.Broadcaster RTBF says the el-Bakraoui brothers were known to police and had criminal records, but no history of terrorist activity.

The Belgian broadcaster says Khalid el-Bakraoui used a false name to rent the Brussels apartment that police raided last week, finding weapons and a fingerprint for Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the November 13 Paris bombings who was arrested Friday.

The newspaper La Derniere Heure says Najim Laachraoui's DNA was found in houses used by those who carried out the Paris attacks. He is believed to have traveled to Hungary with Paris suspect Abdeslam.

Earlier Wednesday, Belgian police released a photo of a wanted suspect in the Brussels bombings.

The photograph taken from closed circuit television shows a man wearing a black hat, a light-colored jacket and sunglasses, pushing an airport luggage cart alongside the two men who are believed to have been the suicide bombers.

 


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