The evidence building up belies the claim by Belgian security authorities that the two brothers responsible for the Brussels outrage Tuesday, March 22, were suicide bombers. They were identified Wednesday, March 23, as Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who were known to the police.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources find indications that the two men got away and are still alive. They did not use explosive belts for the bombings that claimed 14 lives, injured scores and totaled the Brussels airport departure hall. But, according to the findings at the main scene of the carnage near the American Airlines desk, they detonated bombs weighing several kilos from their luggage carts, or from the floor underneath.
The massive bomb blasts and metal shrapnel thrown out in the explosion caused injuries in the lower parts of their victims’ bodies, according to the descriptions in Brussels hospital websites and social media.
An explosive belt tied to a suicide killer would have caused chest and upper limb injuries.
The taxi driver who dropped the two terrorists off at the airport reported that they refused his help for unloading their suitcases, although they were very heavy. They most likely contained the deadly bombs.
Both brothers wore a black glove on each of their left hands, apparently to conceal remote control buttons for the bombs in the carts they were pushing through the hall. But suicide bombers detonate their explosive belts by a built-in mechanism.
Despite the spreading shock effect of the airport attack, it is also becoming clear that the terrorists only accomplished the first part of their jihadist mission. The Islamic State, which approved the operation, had envisaged a much bigger atrocity. This is attested to by the discovery of three bags containing identical kits of firearms and ammunition, a bomb belt, two AK-47 automatic rifles, magazines and hand grenades – all intact and unused. The police detonated them by controlled explosion.
Those kits were concealed in advance in apparent readiness to strike the emergency teams, the medics, the security forces and the other first responders when they arrived to tend the victims of the first attack. The kits were placed at strategic points, either by an advance team of terrorist operatives masquerading as airport personnel, or a staff employee.
When investigators examined the submachine guns, they found that someone had tried to fire one of them and it jammed. This might explain why the second half of the Brussels airport atrocity, the mega-massacre, was stalled.
By sheer chance, therefore, hundreds of Belgian security officers and emergency aid personnel were saved from being trapped from three directions in a ball of fire.
Belgian police and security units have been chasing desperately, with very few intelligence clues, for a broad network of at least 20 Islamists, who must have spent months setting up the complicated Brussels operations at the airport and Metro station.
The planning would have involved exhaustive reconnaissance, the precise study of the targeted locations, arms providers, logistics, finance, communications and prepared escape routes – before the bombers went in. The two brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El-Bakraoui – misrepresented as suicide bombers – must now be considered fugitives like their companion, the third man seen on airport CCTV in a white coat and hat.
He has also been identified as Najim Laachraoui, 25, the senior ISIS bombmaker in Europe, who almost certainly took a hand in the multiple Paris attacks last November. There were conflicting reports Wednesday afternoon about his capture by Brussels police.