Security forces raid homes in Belgian suburb after terror attacks

uni1457989493BRUSSELS – Belgian security forces raided homes in a Brussels suburb after terror bombings at the city’s airport and a metro killed at least 34 people and left more than 230 injured.

The Islamic State group has issued a communique taking credit for the Brussels attacks and threatening other countries taking part in the anti-IS coalition.

Police are hunting for the bomb maker — Belgian national Najim Laachraoui – believed to be behind the November 13 Paris terror attacks and now a key suspect in Tuesday’s Brussels carnage. Laachraoui, 24, is believed to be an Islamic State commander.

Special forces raided homes in the Brussels suburb of Schaerbeek where police found a nail bomb, chemicals and an Islamic State flag during raids just hours after Tuesday’s bombings.

“The searches that took place in the Schaerbeek (district) found an explosive device containing among other things nails,” the federal prosecutor said in a statement.

“Investigators also discovered chemicals and a flag of the Islamic State,” the statement added.

Authorities are also searching for one of three men filmed on closed-circuit TV wheeling baggage carts at the airport, with the Belgian government saying other suspects may be on the run. The other two likely carried out suicide attacks at the airport, officials said.

Two explosions occurred during morning rush hour Tuesday at the airport in Zaventem and one at a downtown metro station near the European Union buildings.

The Belgian government confirmed 34 dead in the attacks. Belgium’s federal health minister, Maggie De Block, said the explosions at the airport killed 11 people and injured 81.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Majeur put the subway death toll at 20, with more than 100 injured there.

Authorities were led to the Schaerbeek home by a taxi driver who had picked up the three men there earlier and driven them to the airport.

The trio had ordered a large taxi for three persons and five pieces of luggage. However, the taxi turned out to be too small for the luggage and the men were not happy with that.

The taxi driver reportedly said that the three men would not let him help them to load the suitcases into the vehicle. After the driver had dropped off the men and heard about the attack, he realised the link and went to the police.

Laachraoui, whose DNA was found on bombs used in the Paris terror attacks, had rented a hideout in Schaarbeek.

Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam, arrested on Friday, is said to have been holed up in an apartment in Schaerbeek for three weeks after the massacre in France.

He was later in hiding in nearby Molenbeek for four months. Another suspect – Amine Choukri – was arrested by Belgian anti-terror police when he was found living with Abdeslam,

The Islamic State in a statement has promised “dark days” for countries allied against the Islamic State, threatening that “what is coming is worse and more bitter.”

The communique was published in Arabic and French and an English translation was provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites.

The terror bombings have been condemned worldwide. President Barack Obama has ordered that all American flags in the US be flown at half-staff through Saturday out of respect for victims of the Brussels attack.

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the Brussels attacks and urged intense.

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About Cholo Brooks 13323 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.