- Wajaja King
- Category: World News
- Wednesday, 21 June 2017 18:23
Brussels station bomb suspect was Moroccan who had 'nail bomb'...
[Photo Above: The initial explosion shown by the red arrows was captured by a local lawyer]
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 targeted a soldier, screaming "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)", before being shot. He was not wearing a suicide belt.
Photo: Forensic police were seen leaving the suspect's home in Molenbeek with several boxes
He later died of his injuries and his home in Molenbeek was searched by special forces in the early hours of Wednesday. Officials were seen leaving the man's home hours later with what prosecutors said were potential bomb-making materials. "Preliminary results... showed that he probably made the bomb there," said Mr Van der Sypt.
The man was named by Belgian media as Oussama Zariouh and the mayor of Molenbeek said he was known for drugs offences but was not on any jihadist watch list. The prosecutor said there were indications that he had sympathies for so-called Islamic State.
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 were 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.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the problems that had built up in Molenbeek over decades "cannot be put right in barely 10 months".
Defence Minister Steven Vandeput praised the soldiers for following their guidelines to the letter when they opened fire on the attacker.
A bystander who took a picture of the suitcase when it caught fire said he did not at first realise it was a bomb. "It was only when I heard the second blast and then shots being fired that I thought I'd better run," said lawyer Rémy Bonnaffée.
Nicolas Van Herrewegen, a railway sorting agent, said he had gone down to the station's mezzanine level when he heard someone shouting.
"I was behind a wall when it exploded. I went down and alerted my colleagues to evacuate everyone. He [the suspect] was still around but after that we didn't see him."
"It wasn't exactly a big explosion but the impact was pretty big," he added. "People were running away."
Several attacks have taken place in Paris and London in recent days.
The French capital was jolted on Monday when a man with an Islamist background died after ramming his car into a police van on the Avenue des Champs-Élysée. The Brussels prosecutor said on Wednesday that the Paris attack was not being linked to the Belgian explosion "for the time being".
London has also been on edge since a van was driven into Muslim worshippers outside a mosque on Sunday night, with one man dying and nine people injured. It followed IS-claimed attacks on London's Borough Market in June and a pop concert in Manchester in May that together left some 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.