Brussels attacks key suspect arrested (Roundup)

Brussels, March 23 (IANS) A day after twin explosions at the Zaventem airport and another at a Metro station here killed 34 people and injured about 250, the Belgian media reported that a key suspect in the attacks has been arrested.

Two Indians who were injured in the terror attacks were recovering well, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a tweet.

The man arrested by the Belgian authorities is Najim Laachraoui, thought to be the man on the right with a cap on among the three who were caught in a CCTV image taken before the Zaventem airport attack, BBC reported on Wednesday citing Belgian media.

Alleged jihadist Laachraoui has been arrested in Anderlecht, a suburb of Brussels, the Belgian media reported on Wednesday. Two other attackers have been named in Belgian media as brothers — Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, who were suicide bombers.

Belgium is observing three-day mourning following the bomb attacks. A minute’s silence for the victims was to be held at midday (11:00 GMT).

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks and warned that more would follow. Authorities, however, said it was too soon to say for sure whether the terror group was behind the blasts.

Authorities were examining surveillance footage to nab any suspects in Tuesday’s explosions, a media report said.

Confirming recovery of the two Indians injured in the attacks, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “I have just spoken to Manjeev Puri, our ambassador in Brussels. He has informed me that Nidhi and Amit are both recovering well.”

She also said that the government was doing its best to locate another Indian, Raghavendran Ganesh.

“We are coordinating with @jetairways on alternate plans to evacuate our citizens,” she said in another tweet.

According to the airline, the injured crew are safe in hospital. “Our staff in Brussels is co-ordinating with the local authorities and hospitals to ensure that all the required medical care is provided to them.”

Jet Airways, which operates daily non-stop flights to its European gateway at Brussels airport from its domestic hubs in Mumbai and New Delhi, has cancelled several of its flights to, from and via Brussels.

Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, the two suicide bombers who carried out the airport attacks, were Brussels’ residents with criminal records but were not linked by police to terrorism until now, broadcaster RTBF quoted an unnamed source as saying, Xinhua news agency reported.

The two suspects carried explosive devices packed in suitcases on a luggage cart at Zaventem airport, reported Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure.

The newspaper quoted Zaventem’s Mayor Francis Vermeiren who said there were three alleged airport attackers, visible in a photograph of a surveillance camera. They arrived by taxi with suitcases with the ‘bombs’ inside, Efe news agency reported on Wednesday.

According to the same source, they put their suitcases on trolleys and the first two bombs exploded. The third bomb, according Vermeiren, was placed in a travel bag on top of the trolley, but the alleged terrorist “must have panicked, it did not explode”.

The taxi driver who drove them to the airport recalled that they did not let him help with their luggage, according to the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, which indicates that the original plan of these men was to travel with five suitcases to Zaventem.

The three men had asked for a large car and got angry when he came with a small one, which could not fit five suitcases, according to the taxi driver.

After the attack, the driver remembered the three suspects from the surveillance footage and contacted the police. Later, state police were led to the Schaerbeek district of Brussels where the taxi driver had picked up the three suspects.

The surveillance footage in the airport captured three men, each pushing a luggage cart.

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