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Brussels attacks: suicide bombers were brothers

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A man has been detained on the outskirts of Brussels as police search for a 25-year-old Belgian wanted in connection with the deadly bombings in the capital on Tuesday morning (local time).

As Belgians observed a minute of silence on Wednesday in memory of the victims of the Brussels airport and metro bombings, an unidentified man was arrested by Belgian police in Anderlecht.

Initial media reports indicated the man was Najim Laachraoui, 25, who was identified as a key suspect in two separate bombings at Zaventem airport and a Brussels metro station. Those reports were later withdrawn.

Police were yet to confirm the identity of the man arrested, but he is still in custody and is being questioned.

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Earlier, the two suicide bombers who carried out the Brussels Airport attacks were named as brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui by Belgium public broadcaster RTBF, quoting an unnamed source.

Khalid, under a false name, had rented the flat in the Forest borough of the Belgian capital where police killed a gunman in a raid last week, RTBF said.

After the raid, investigators found an Islamic State flag, an assault rifle, detonators and a fingerprint of Paris attacks prime suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested three days later.

Both brothers have criminal records, but have not been linked to terrorism by police until now, RTBF said.

Belgium has declared three days of mourning after bomb attacks ripped through the capital’s airport and the Maelbeek underground train station, killing 31, with Islamic State claiming responsibility. More than 200 people were injured.

A Brussels taxi driver helped lead Belgian authorities to a third, unexploded, bomb at the airport, and then led police to an apartment where he picked up the suspected attackers the morning of the explosions, according to Belgian media.

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Two women injured in the Brussels Airport explosions. Photo: Facebook

An image from an airport security camera shows the two brothers and a third man pushing luggage trolleys at the airport shortly before two bombs exploded, killing at least a dozen people.

After seeing the photo, the taxi driver remembered picking the men up from an address at Schaerbeek, not far from the site of the metro bombing, which killed another 20 people.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said searches were taking place “in several parts of the country”.

Following the attacks, police found a bomb and an Islamic State flag during a house search in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek, public broadcaster VRT said.

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

“A photograph of three male suspects was taken at [the airport]. Two of them seem to have committed suicide attacks. The third, wearing a light-coloured jacket and a hat, is actively being sought.”

The search follows a wanted notice issued by a judge on Monday for Laachraoui, who had travelled to Hungary in September with Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam.

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