Two of the suicide bombers who targeted Brussels Airport and the city’s subway system were identified Wednesday as Belgian brothers Khalid and Brahim Bakraoui, and there were brief, false hopes that the suspected ISIS bomb-maker behind the attacks could have been apprehended.
A major Belgian newspaper and television network reported early Wednesday that police had taken Najim Laachraoui, the Belgian national suspected of making the bombs for the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks in Paris and yesterday’s carnage in Brussels, which left at least 31 people dead, into custody.
Officials never confirmed the reports, however, and the media outlets later said the man arrested in the southwest Brussels district of Anderlecht on Wednesday had not yet been identified.
Later, Belgium’s federal prosecutor indicated the person arrested Wednesday in Brussels was not Laachraoui and the search for him remains ongoing.
The suspected bomb-maker did not detonate his own bomb at the airport, the prosecutor said, and was still on the run. His unexploded bomb was recovered by police at the airport.
The information from the prosecutor appeared to confirm that there were two suspects still being actively sought in and around Brussels, linked to the Tuesday attacks; Laachraoui, and an unidentified bomber seen at the airport.
Laachraoui’s arrest would have been a major blow against what appears to be a deadly ISIS cell in Western Europe. But as worries over the Belgian authorities’ ability to tackle the home-grown threat mount, the information emerging Wednesday also suggested there was a fourth, still-unidentified assailant.