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Belgian Authorities Continue Search For Key Suspect In Brussels Attacks

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Brussels, it's the first of three official days of mourning for the dead and hundreds injured in yesterday's suicide bombings. Authorities are starting to release details of the men they believe were responsible for the attacks on the airport and subway station. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more from Brussels.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Belgian officials at a press conference here shared more details about yesterday's two-pronged bombing attacks. Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said there were four men involved and that they now know who two of them where. He said they were Belgians and brothers and had criminal records.

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FREDERIC VAN LEEUW: (Speaking French).

NELSON: The prosecutor said the man who blew himself up in the second car of a metro train while it was stopped at a station beneath the EU headquarters area was Khalid el Bakraoui. His older brother, Ibrahim, was one of two men who detonated a bomb at the Brussels airport, the prosecutor said. Later in the day, the Turkish media said Turkey had tried to warn the Belgians that they had arrested and deported Ibrahim el Bakraoui, but the Belgians found no reason to take action against him.

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LEEUW: (Speaking French).

NELSON: Today, Belgian prosecutor Van Leuuw said they found Bakraoui's computer thrown in a trashcan on the same street where police had raided an apartment.

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LEEUW: (Speaking French).

NELSON: He said on it was a note in which the airport bomber wrote he felt he was in danger because police were closing in. Bakraoui also wrote that he worried if he waited he might end up in a cell.

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LEEUW: (Speaking French).

NELSON: The prosecutor said what investigators found in the apartment was alarming, including 37 pounds of explosives, nails and other bomb-making materials. But there is a lot more the investigators still don't know, like the identity of the second airport bomber or the third man in the photograph that was taken minutes before the airport explosions. In it, he and the two bombing suspects push their explosive-laden bags through the departure hall on luggage carts. The prosecutor says the man escaped and left behind his unexploded bomb, which had the biggest explosive charge. The search for the suspect has led the Belgian government to extend their highest state of alert, which suggests they fear another attack is imminent.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in French).

NELSON: In the capital, residents gathered in front of the stock exchange to chant for Belgian solidarity against terrorism, while police nearby frisked citizens and their belongings at metro stops and outside public buildings. One woman in attendance was Elizabeth Garlick. The British citizen, who has lived here for 20 years, says she didn't mind the extra police scrutiny.

ELIZABETH GARLICK: I would be concerned if that wasn't the situation. They're doing a good job. And it's uncomfortable, but what I am worried about is unnecessarily ethnic profiling for people who've been here for years - that there there'll be a problem. And it will be the seed of the problem in the future, as well.

NELSON: So far, few Belgians appear to be complaining about the increased security measures in their capital. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.