The two brothers named as the suicide bombers at the center of the Brussels airport and metro attacks this week were listed as a potential terror threat in U.S. databases, NBC News has learned.
The officials would not say on which of the many U.S. terrorism databases the brothers were listed. But the disclosure does raise questions about how Belgian authorities could describe them as petty criminals who were not on their counter-terrorism radar.
Molebeek Mayor Says Everyone Is Concerned 2:24
Congressional committees have asked U.S. intelligence agencies for an accounting of which lists the Brussels attackers were on, for how long, and whether and how the information was shared, U.S. officials told NBC News.
Belgian authorities identified Ibrahim El Bakraoui as one of the suicide bombers who attacked the airport, and his brother Khalid as the suicide bomber on the Brussels subway. The attacks killed at least 31 people and injured hundreds.ou
Her sister Marie Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Charlotte had struggled to get information because phone networks were disrupted and much of the city locked down following the attacks.
“Understandably, she is very, very distressed. Not everybody has been identified yet of the injured so it’s just waiting for that process to happen,” she said.
“It’s just waiting, which is heartbreaking and very worrying.”
Friend Simon Hartley-Jones said: “He’s a lovely guy. He’s an amazing man who deeply, deeply loves his son and we all want to find him.”
The two other men died in the attacks after detonating suicide devices, a Belgian prosecutor said.
Anti-terror raids have taken place across Belgium. So-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the attacks.
More about the attacks
Specialist police from the UK have been sent to Brussels to help with the investigation, while the government’s emergency Cobra committee will meet for a second time on Wednesday morning to discuss UK security.
Security has been stepped up at UK ports, airports and other transport hubs, and more Border Force officers deployed to carry out checks on people and vehicles arriving.
The terror threat level has been at “severe” since August 2014, meaning an attack is highly likely.
Mr Cameron said UK authorities were continuing to review information coming in – and would raise the terror threat level if there was information of a direct threat.
Meanwhile the Foreign Office is warning Britons travelling to Brussels to be “alert and vigilant and stay away from crowded places”.
An emergency number for those worried a relative may have been affected has also been issued – 020 7008 0000.
Belgium is observing three days of mourning and a minute’s silence for the victims will be held at 11:00 GMT.
Meanwhile, the US state department has urged US citizens of the “potential risks” of travelling to Europe.
A statement said terror groups were planning “near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants and transportation”.
Tuesday’s blasts came four days after the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam who investigators say was involved in last November’s terror attacks in Paris.
Abdeslam is due to appear before a pre-trial court in Brussels on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people crowded into Place de la Bourse late into Tuesday night, lighting candles and placing flowers in a vigil for the victims of the attacks.
Many cities around the world illuminated their landmarks in the colours of the Belgian flag in a show of solidarity.
Raids took place in Brussels and across Belgium on Tuesday as anti-terror police sought those linked to the attacks.
They issued a wanted notice for a man seen walking with two other suspects at the airport just before the blasts at a check-in hall.
He was pushing a luggage trolley with a suitcase thought to have contained a bomb that did not explode.
The two other men are presumed to have died after detonating suicide devices. They were wearing a black glove on the left hand, possibly to hide the devices. The third man was wearing no glove.
The explosions happened in quick succession shortly after 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT) and the other bomb was found and destroyed in a controlled detonation.
A taxi driver who had reportedly driven the three suspects to the airport gave police an address in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels where another explosive device and an IS flag were among items recovered.
Police helicopters hovered over the city late into the night as the search operation continued.
About an hour after the airport blasts on Tuesday morning, another explosion struck the Maelbeek metro station near EU headquarters.
The cause of the blast has not been confirmed but IS said it too was a suicide bombing.
Police said about 20 people died on the metro train and about 14 at the airport.
Belgium has raised its terrorism alert to its highest level.
Transport across Brussels was paralysed after the explosions but some services later resumed. The airport is unlikely to reopen for several days.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Tuesday was “a day of tragedy, a black day” and urged citizens to show “calmness and solidarity”.
World leaders have sent condolences and messages of solidarity.
US President Barack Obama called the blasts “outrageous attacks against innocent people” while the 28 EU leaders – in a joint statement – said the bombings were an “attack on our open, democratic society”.
Starbucks has said that one of the explosions appears to have occurred outside a coffee shop in Brussels airport, injuring an employee. It said in a statement:
We are deeply saddened by the senseless acts that have taken place in Brussels today.
Amidst reports of attacks targeting Brussels Airport and at a metro station, initial indications are that an explosion took place outside of a store within the airport. While one partner (employee) was injured we can confirm that all our partners have been accounted for and are safe. This store and all other Starbucks stores in Brussels will remain closed until further notice.
In a telegram to the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, the pope “expresses his deepest sympathy to the injured and their families, and all those who contribute to relief efforts, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in this ordeal. The Holy Father again condemns the blind violence which causes so much suffering and imploring from God the gift of peace, he entrusts on the bereaved families and the Belgians the benefit of divine blessings.”
There has also been reaction from different faith groups in the UK.
Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said:
We are shocked to hear about the terror attacks in Brussels, coming as they did only a few days after the horrific atrocities in Istanbul. I hope the killers are brought to justice and face the full force of the law.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and communities affected.
As we come to terms with yet another attack on European soil, we must redouble our efforts to work together to defeat terrorism wherever it comes from. These mass murderers want to divide our society and pit people against each other. We must deny them this goal at every conceivable opportunity.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
In the great holy week of Christian prayer and mercy, the Brussels attacks shock all those who seek peace and justice through the terrible cruelty and utter separation from all that is of god. Once again we see the contrast between the vain efforts to terrify through indiscriminate murder, and the call of god to be those who show mercy, who seek peace and pursue it. Let us at every service this week pray for those caught up in the traumatic events at the airport and in the city of Brussels.
The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said the attacks reinforced the need for “very high security” at this summer’s European football championship in France, AP reports.
Cazeneuve said that everything will be put in place during the tournament from 10 June-10 July to guarantee “collective security”.
In the wake of the Paris attacks that left 130 people dead in November, tournament organisers had already strengthened security measures and made changes to fan zones. Cazeneuve said the state would contribute up to €2m for video surveillance in the designated areas for the public.
Cazeneuve said Euro 2016 should bring “sportsmanship, festivities and security for teams, accompanying staff and spectators”.
As yet there has been no claim of responsibility, but social media accounts linked to Islamic State militants have praised the attacks, according to jihadi watcher Michael Horowitz, a security analyst at the Levantine Group.
More than a hundred people were injured and at least 20 people were killed at the Maelbeek metro station, writes Oliver Milne.
Speaking at a press conference, the mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur, said that at least 20 people died in the explosion at the metro station, but that it is “too early to say exactly what the number of victims will be”.
He confirmed that 106 people had been injured in the metro station blast.
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer says he plans to take legal action against a French prosecutor for breach of confidentiality.
The Paris prosecutor told reporters that Abdeslam had admitted he wanted to blow himself up during the attacks on 13 November but then changed his mind.
The bombings and shootings, claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS), left 130 people dead and dozens injured.
Abdeslam was arrested in Belgium last week after four months on the run.
The Belgian authorities have charged him with terrorism offences. He has decided to fight extradition to France, which could take up to three months.
Abdeslam’s Belgian lawyer, Sven Mary, says his client is co-operating with the authorities.
At a news conference in the French capital on Saturday, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, referring to Abdeslam’s statement to Belgian police, said: “He wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and, I quote, backed out.”
He added that people should treat with caution initial statements by the 26-year-old French national.
Mr Mary said he would take legal action against Mr Molins for breaching the confidentiality of the investigation.
He told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF that Mr Molins’ comments at a news conference were “a violation… I cannot let it go unchallenged”.
Meanwhile, France is sending more troops to its borders after the arrest of Abdeslam.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said they would join more than 5,000 police mobilised since the attacks.
Abdeslam is believed to have fled shortly after the November attacks, returning to the Molenbeek district of Brussels.
He is being held at a high-security jail in Belgium.
Investigators hope Abdeslam, who was shot in the leg during his arrest, will reveal more information about the IS network behind the Paris attacks, its financing and plans.
They believe he helped with logistics, including renting rooms and driving suicide bombers to the Stade de France.
The subject of a massive manhunt, Salah Abdeslam was arrested about 500m (1,600ft) from his home in Molenbeek. His brother, Brahim, was one of the Paris attackers who blew himself up.
Another man arrested at the same time as Salah Abdeslam on Friday, Monir Ahmed Alaaj, has also been charged with participation in terrorist murder and the activities of a terrorist group, the Belgian prosecutors say.
Friday’s raid also saw three members of a family detained.
They include Abid Aberkan, described as a friend of Abdeslam, who has been charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation and harbouring criminals.
Another family member, identified as Djemila M, has been charged with harbouring criminals, but is not in custody, the prosecutor’s office says.
The raid came after Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in a flat in another Brussels district, Forest, raided on Tuesday.
Footage showed Abdeslam being bundled into a police car on Friday after a volley of gunfire. Alaaj was also injured during the arrests.
Prosecutors said Alaaj had travelled with Abdeslam to Germany last October, where his fingerprints were taken during an identity check.
A false Syrian passport in Alaaj’s name and Belgian identity papers under an alias were found in a flat in Forest raided on Tuesday.
Along with the Stade de France, the Paris bombings and shootings targeted the Bataclan concert hall and bars and restaurants.