Two Brussels brothers who were known to police are among the suicide bombers who carried out deadly terrorist attacks on the international airport and subway in the Belgian capital, local media reported Wednesday.
[Khalid El Bakraoui] had been sentenced in early 2011 to five years in prison for carjackings, after having been arrested in possession of Kalashnikov rifles, according to the Belga news agency.
His brother, 30-year-old Brahim, had been sentenced in 2010 to nine years in prison for having shot at police with a Kalashnikov rifle during a hold-up, Belga said.
The Belgian justice and interior ministers acknowledged that their departments should have acted on a Turkish alert about a convicted Belgian criminal briefly arrested in Turkey last year on suspicion of terrorist activity, who turned out to be one of the suicide bombers. And the Belgian prosecutor’s office said that person’s brother — another suicide bomber — had been wanted since December in connection with the Paris attacks.
According to Dernière Heure, the two suspects at large are thought to be Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, respectively 26 and 30. Known for gangster-related crimes, the name of one has cropped up in anti-terror investigations, according to Le Monde.
After the standoff, police and special forces expanded their search and homed in on a neighbouring street, rue de l’Eau, after finding two gun cartridges and dark clothing in the area. During a raid on a house, they picked up another Kalashnikov.
Kouachi was arrested in January 2005, accused of planning to join jihadists in Iraq. He was said to have fallen under the sway of Farid Benyettou, a young “self-taught preacher” who advocated violence, but had not actually yet traveled to Iraq or committed any acts of terror. Lawyers at the time said he had not received weapons training and “had begun having second thoughts,” going so far as to express “relief” that he’d been apprehended.
Western intelligence officials are scrambling to learn more about possible travel of the two Paris terror attack suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, with new information suggesting one of the brothers recently spent time in Yemen associating with al Qaeda in that country, U.S. officials briefed on the matter told CNN. Additional information from a French source close to the French security services puts one of the brothers in Syria.