Brussels attacks

Brussels Attacks: Four suspects identified; mystery man on the run

(Clockwise from top left) Faycal Cheffou, Najim Laachraoui, Khalid El- Bakraoui and Ibrahim El- Bakraoui.
(Clockwise from top left) Faycal Cheffou, Najim Laachraoui, Khalid El- Bakraoui and Ibrahim El- Bakraoui.PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

Two brothers who dabbled in crime, a freelance journalist, a university drop-out and a mystery man - the five suspects in Belgium's airport and subway train attacks are a mixed lot.

Two of the men blew themselves up at Brussels' airport, and a third inside a metro train, killing 28 victims and injuring 300 on Tuesday.

A fourth suspect was charged on Saturday with terrorist murder and identified by the federal prosecutor's office only as Faycal C. A fifth man remains on the run.

Here are the profiles of the identified suspects:


FAYCAL C.

Believed to be the "man in a hat" pictured in CCTV footage alongside the two airport bombers, but whose device did not go off, he is the first person to face terrorist charges over the bloodiest attacks to strike the symbolic capital of Europe.

Sources close to the inquiry said he is Faycal Cheffou, an independent journalist who was accused by the Brussels mayor last year of trying to recruit terrorists among refugees and who can be seen on YouTube in 2014 demanding the authorities respect the rights of asylum-seekers.

He was arrested late on Thursday close to the federal prosecutor's office with two others while being tailed by police.


NAJIM LAACHRAOUI

The 24-year-old has been identified as one of the two airport bombers and is believed to have been the bomb-maker for November's Paris attacks.

He is described as having been a good student with a good disciplinary record, and friends and family remember an easy-going youngster. His radicalisation shocked the family. When he told them in 2013 he was heading to Syria, they contacted the police.

He resurfaced in September, when he was stopped by police on the Austria-Hungary border. He was travelling with Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam. His DNA was found on explosives used in Paris and at hideouts and a suspected bomb factory in Brussels.


IBRAHIM EL-BAKRAOUI

The 29-year-old was one of the two airport suicide bombers and the brother of Khalid, who blew himself up on a train at Maalbeek metro station in Brussels.

The brothers had lived the lives of small-time Brussels hoodlums, piling up convictions for carjackings, robberies and shoot-outs with police.

Ibrahim was handed a nine-year sentence in 2010 after a gunfight with police. He took part in a bungled robbery at a Western Union office in which an officer was shot and wounded. After his release from prison in 2014, he joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

Turkey said it had detained Ibrahim in June last year as a "foreign terrorist fighter" and then deported him to the Netherlands, but that Belgium failed to confirm his links to terrorism.


KHALID EL- BAKRAOUI

The 27-year-old, who blew himself up at Maalbeek metro station just a short walk from the main EU institutions, was a convicted carjacker, receiving a five-year sentence in 2011.

On an Interpol terrorism list, Khalid is suspected of having rented a flat under a false identity in the Forest district of Brussels that was raided by police on March 15. It was used as a hideout months earlier for the Paris attack team and he was thought to have rented other properties used to prepare the Paris attacks, including one in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi, from where ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud set off to spearhead the assault.

A man caught on CCTV footage at the metro station talking to the train bomber remains on the run.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Four suspects identified; mystery man on the run'. Print Edition | Subscribe