By: Matt Hodder
The man who was shot dead after attempting to detonate a suitcase bomb at Brussels Central Station on Tuesday has been identified as a 36-year-old Moroccan man from a Brussels district from which a number of other jihadist attackers have emerged.
The suspect who has only been identified by his initials, O.Z., came from Molenbeek, the Brussels district that was home to Paris suicide bomber Ibrahim Abdeslam and his brother Salah Abdeslam.
Last year’s Brussels attacks suspect Mohammed Abrini was also a childhood friend.
O.Z. was known to police but was not linked to terrorism, according to reports.
The “small explosion” went off in the station at around 8:30 p.m., said Belgium Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt.
The bomb, concealed in a suitcase, was armed with nails and gas canisters.
Remy Bonnaffe said he was inside the station when the bomb went off. “The fire was very small. It was a very small explosion but a very loud bang,” said Bonnaffe.
While panicked, no civilians were harmed in the explosion.
O.Z. began by approaching a group of passengers beneath the main concourse, attempting to detonate the bomb.
The suitcase caught fire, detonating only partially at first, before exploding a second time.
O.Z. then ran screaming “Allahu Akbar [God is greatest]” at a station-master, then switched targets to a soldier before he was shot.
Despite what one eye-witness thought he saw, O.Z. was not wearing a suicide belt.
O.Z. later died of his injuries, and his Molenbeek home was searched by police early today.
The station, along with two others in the Belgium capital, were evacuated and closed. Bomb disposal units and armed patrols surrounded the stations.
The situation was contained within an hour, according to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
While the Belgian Foreign Ministry said there is no indication of other upcoming incidents, Belgium’s threat level will remain at 3, warning of a “possible and likely threat.”
Extra measures have been taken to secure public places, stations and major events, said Michel. Coldplay will be playing concerts on Wednesday and Thursday, and European Union leaders will be meeting at a summit in Belgium’s capital between Thursday and Friday.
The incident comes on the heels of attacks in Paris and London. A man died in Paris ramming his car into a police van on Monday, and a van was driven into a group of Muslim worshippers outside a London mosque on Sunday night.
This attack comes over a year after suicide bombers detonated several bombs in the Brussels airport and the nearby Metro station, killing more than 32 and wounding hundreds of people.