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Here’s what we know about the Brussels terror attacks

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Thirty-one people were killed and 270 injured when terrorists struck Brussels’ airport and the city’s Maelbeek metro station on Tuesday morning, in attacks subsequently claimed by ISIS.

Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Belgian brothers known to authorities for their track record of violent offenses, carried out two suicide attacks, authorities say: the former in the metro, and the latter at the airport. Another suicide bomber at the airport was alleged bomb-maker Najim Laachraoui, multiple European officials told CNN.

Here’s what we know so far:

The attacks

Airport: At 7:58 a.m. local time, two suicide bombers struck the departure lounge of Brussels Airport in Zaventem about 37 seconds apart, killing at least 10 people.

One blast took place outside the security checkpoints for ticketed passengers and near the airline check-in counters, according to an airline official briefed on the situation.

Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said Wednesday that a third bomb, which he described as the “heaviest,” had been left at the airport by a suspect who left the scene.

He said it exploded “a few moments after the bomb squad arrived” because the explosives were unstable, but no one had been injured “thanks to the professionalism of the authorities at the scene.”

Metro station: About an hour after the airport explosions, Khalid El Bakraoui, a Brussels-born 27-year-old, detonated a suicide bomb on the Brussels subway at the end of rush hour.

The bomber, who Van Leeuw said was identified by his fingerprints, was in the second car of a train at the Maelbeek metro station.

The station is in the heart of the city, where European Union institutions are based, making it a symbolic target for terrorists. NATO is also headquartered in Brussels.

The suspects

Belgian authorities released an image of three suspects believed to have carried out the airport attack.

The man on the left is ISIS bomb-maker Laachraoui, a Belgium counterterrorism official said.

Belgian investigators believe Laachraoui, who was recently identified as a suspect in the Paris attacks, was killed in the Brussels airport attack, multiple European officials told CNN. Authorities have not established Laachraoui’s identity conclusively and were checking DNA and fingerprint records, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN’s Paul Cruickshank.

The man in the middle is 29-year-old Ibrahim El Bakraoui, Khalid’s brother.

Authorities haven’t identified the man on the right, but they say they’re looking for him.

That man, Belgian authorities said, planted a bomb at the airport and left.

The man is believed to have been a guide, charged with ensuring the others carried out the attacks, according to Van Leeuw and experts.


A taxi driver who took the three suspects to the airport told investigators that he picked them up at an address in Max Roos Street in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek, prompting a raid on an address there that uncovered 15 kilograms of the explosive TATP, chemicals, a suitcase with nails and screws, an ISIS flag and other equipment meant to make explosives, Van Leeuw said.

Police searched two other addresses on the street and found nothing, but then found a computer containing the will of Ibrahim El Bakraoui in a trash can on the street, Van Leeuw said. The statement said he was “in a rush,” “not knowing what to do,” “being actively sought everywhere” and “not feeling safe,” the prosecutor said.

He said that police had arrested two people — one in Schaerbeek, who was still being interrogated, and another who had been released after questioning.

Police raids have continued in the Brussels area, and one on Wednesday in Anderlecht resulted in the arrest of an individual whose identity has not yet been released.


The first victim to be identified is Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, who was killed in the attack at the airport, according to Peruvian state news agency Andina.

Originally from Peru, Tapia Ruiz had lived in Belgium for six years and was at the airport with her husband and twin 3-year-old daughters waiting to board a plane when the bombs went off.

Belgian law student Leopold Hecht was killed at the metro station, his school, Universite Saint-Louis Bruxelles, said in a statement.

And Olivier Delespesse was killed in the metro explosion, said his employer, La Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles, a government ministry serving Francophone Brussels and Wallonia.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Wednesday that about a dozen Americans were injured in the attacks, but “we are not aware of any U.S. citizen deaths.” The statement, from spokesman Mark Toner, added, “We must emphasize that a number of U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for and the Kingdom of Belgium has not yet released nationality information for reported fatalities.”

The backdrop

“The Belgians have been sitting on a ticking time bomb,” one U.S. counterterrorism official said.

U.S. intelligence officials say they weren’t surprised that Brussels was attacked, because there have been general concerns about terror threats, particularly after recent raids and the arrest of Abdeslam last week.

Belgium has been a top concern for counterterrorism officials for years because of the large number of Belgian foreign fighters who have traveled to join ISIS and other terror groups in Syria and Iraq — more per capita than any other European Union country.

Many have been returning.

Last Friday, after more than four months on the run, Abdeslam was captured after being wounded in a gunfight with Belgian police in Molenbeek. Days later, Belgium and French authorities warned of more attacks.

After Tuesday’s attacks, Belgian officials raised the country’s terror threat warning to its highest level.

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