Brussels bomb suspect was Moroccan and ‘known to police’

A man suspected of setting off a bomb at Brussels Central Station on Tuesday has been identified as a 36-year-old Moroccan from a city district that has spawned a number of jihadist attackers.

The suspect came from Molenbeek and was carrying a bomb armed with nails and gas canisters, officials said.

He was shot and later died after the explosion, which is being treated as a terrorist attack.

He was known to police but had not been linked to terrorism, reports said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters that a “terrorist attack had been averted” at the station.

Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said the suspect, identified only by his initials O.Z., had approached a group of passengers beneath the main concourse and attempted to blow up his suitcase. It partially exploded and caught fire before blowing up a second time.

The man had then run towards a station-master and then targeted a soldier, screaming “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)”, before being shot. He was not wearing a suicide belt.

He later died of his injuries and his home in Molenbeek was searched by special forces in the early hours of Wednesday.

Security tightened at public places

After convening a security cabinet on Wednesday, the prime minister said extra measures were being taken to secure stations, public places and major events.

Major concerts by rock group Coldplay are due to go ahead in Brussels as planned on Wednesday and Thursday. Belgium is currently at its second highest level of security alert. The capital is also due to host a summit of European Union leaders on Thursday and Friday.

Brussels was hit by a double bombing in March 2016 in which 32 people died. The attacks on Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Many of the jihadists involved in the 2016 Brussels bombings and the Paris attacks in November 2015 came from the Belgian capital, and several from Molenbeek in particular.

The district just west of the city centre was home to Paris suicide bomber Ibrahim Abdeslam and his brother Salah Abdeslam, seen as a key figure in the attacks. Brussels attacks suspect Mohamed Abrini was a childhood friend.

 

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