Homeland Security

State Dept. Warns of Europe Travel as Brother Bombers Identified

The State Department issued a travel alert for all of Europe after Tuesday’s pair of bombings in Brussels killed at least 31 and injured at least 270.

Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw identified the deceased bombers today as brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui.

Both were identified through fingerprints as they had criminal records for armed robbery and carjackings. Interpol issued a red notice for Khalid before the attacks saying that the native Belgian was wanted on terrorism charges. It noted that he had dual nationality in Belgium and the Bahamas.

They are believed to be linked to the cell that conducted the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

Brahim, 24, attacked Zaventem airport, while Khalid, 27, bombed the Maelbeek metro station.

Authorities are still looking for a third man seen on airport surveillance footage wearing a white jacket and a hat, pushing a baggage cart with a large black duffel bag.

The man in the middle wearing a black shirt and khakis is Brahim; the one on the left is suspected to be ISIS commander Najim Laachraoui, 24, the bomb-maker in the Paris attacks.

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Van Leeuw said the duffel contained another bomb that malfunctioned.

A taxi driver who took the attackers to the airport led police to the apartment they’d rented a week before, where extensive bomb-making materials were discovered.

The State Department’s travel alert runs through June 20 and cautions of “potential risks of travel to and throughout Europe following several terrorist attacks, including the March 22 attacks in Brussels claimed by ISIL.”

“Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation,” the notice says. “U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events.”

“…European governments continue to guard against terrorist attacks and conduct raids to disrupt plots. We work closely with our allies and will continue to share information with our European partners that will help identify and counter terrorist threats.”

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels advised citizens there that the alert level in the country is still 4 — “serious and imminent attack.”

“We urge individuals to exercise caution and to avoid large gatherings. A period of mourning is underway and will end on Thursday. Many public events have been cancelled. Public transportation has been disrupted. Zaventem airport remains closed,” the Embassy said today.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) told Fox on Tuesday that the Brussels attack was not a surprise.

“They are at much greater risk than the United States,” McCaul said. “Having said that, we’re also very concerned given the latest ISIS video talking about a Paris-style attack in the United States. That we are on a high state of alert both at airports and at train stations. But, also, last points of departure from European cities and high threat countries into the United States.”

“…When I spoke with the FBI earlier, it’s this encryption idea. The idea that they can communicate in dark space, like they did in Paris, like what I think probably happened here in the Brussels case that concerns us the most. If we can’t see their communications, you can’t stop it.”

This story was updated with suspect information at 4 p.m. EST.

Brothers Khalid, left, and Ibrahim El Bakraoui have been identified as the deceased bombers in the March 22, 2016, Brussels attacks.

Brothers Khalid, left, and Ibrahim El Bakraoui have been identified as the deceased bombers in the March 22, 2016, Brussels attacks.