The bomber shot dead during terror attack in Belgium was Moroccan 'sex offender' from jihadi ghetto MolenbeekDaily Mail
June 21, 2017
Fanatic screamed Allahu akbar and triggered explosion before being 'neutralised.
An attacker who detonated a nail bomb he was carrying in a suitcase at Brussels Central Station has been identified as a 36-year-old Moroccan national from the jihadi ghetto of Molenbeek.
Officials have said the suspect, named Oussama Zariouh, was not on their radar for links to terrorism, though some local media said he was well-known for being as serial sex offender and others said he was embroiled in drug crime.
He is the latest in the long line of extremist to have come from the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek, branded as the 'jihadist capital of Europe' which harboured Salah Adbeslam, who is in prison for the Paris attacks in 2015.
Attempted suicide bomber Zariouh entered the station at 8.39pm and twice approached a group of 10 passengers and on the second time stood in the middle of them, screamed, and tried to blow himself up.
It appears he botched his attack as the suitcase, which contained nails and gas canisters, only partially exploded before catching fire which later caused a bigger blast.
When he realised his bomb had failed, he ran down the platform towards the station manager before returning to the scene of the blast shouting 'Allahu akbar' at a soldier, who shot him dead.
It emerged this afternoon Zariouh was an Islamic State supporter and Belgian authorities found explosives in his home.
Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said the attacker was born on January 20, 1981, but declined to give his full name.
He said: 'The preliminary results of the search carried out in the residence of the suspect in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, showed that he probably made the bomb there.
'Both possible chemical substances and materials were found that could serve to make explosives.
'There are also indications that the suspect had sympathies for the terrorist organisation ISIS
'He was not known to the authorities for any terrorism connection.
'It could have been much worse,' he said. 'It is clear that he wanted to cause more damage than he did.
'He grabbed his suitcase while shouting and causing a partial explosion. Fortunately nobody was hurt.
'The suitcase immediately caught fire. The man then left his luggage burning and went down to the platform in pursuit of a station master.
'Meanwhile the bag exploded a second time more violently. This bag contained nails and gas bottles.
'The man then returned to the hall where he rushed to a soldier shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest).
'The soldier immediately opened fire and hit the individual several times. The latter die on the spot as a result of his injuries,' he said.
The suspect was not wearing a suicide belt, as some Belgian media had reported, Van Der Sypt said.
The attacker's body was left lying in the station for several hours as medics could not approach him for fear that the explosives strapped to him could go off any second, official authorities said.
Initial reports suggested the suspect - described as being 'tanned, well-built and in his 30s' - was wearing an explosive vest or rucksack, while witnesses later claimed he tried to blow up a trolley or a suitcase.
He was shot by soldiers already patrolling the station and there were no other casualties.
Terrified passengers inside the station ran towards the tracks as they tried to avoid the blast, while crying tourists outside fled in panic. Within a few minutes the busy nearby shops and restaurants were shut down.
A bomb squad performed a controlled explosion of a bomb belt the suspect had on at the Central Station and evacuated the city's famed Grand Place square 650 feet away while checking to see if there were more hazards
The latest attack comes a year after three suicide bombers hit the capital of Brussels, killing 32 people and injuring hundreds more.
Van der Sypt said authorities are treating the incident 'as a terrorist attack' that was foiled when the suspect was 'neutralised'.
Medics were unable to attend the attacker for several hours out of fear he could be carrying explosives and authorities only could confirm his death once a bomb squad had finished its work.
Nicolas Van Herrewegen, a railway employee, said the bomber was very agitated and 'screaming' about jihadists before blowing up on a 'small suitcase' next to him.
'He [The suspect] screamed 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great), and detonated a small suitcase he was holding next to him. I was behind a wall when it exploded,' he said.
'I went down and alerted my colleagues to evacuate everyone. He was still around but after that we didn't see him. It wasn't exactly a big explosion but the impact was pretty big. People were running away.'
Mr Herrewegen - who had heard shouting at the station's mezzanine level - described the suspect as being between 30 and 35, well-built and tanned with short hair, and wearing a white shirt and jeans.
He added: 'I saw that he had something on him because I could see wires emerging, so it may have been a suicide vest.'
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon confirmed that the authorities know the identity of the terrorist suspect behind yesterday's attack on Brussels Central station.
He said he could not give a name or other information yet so as not to endanger current investigations, but according to Belgian local media the suspect is a 37-year-old Moroccan man from the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek, branded as the 'jihadist capital of Europe' which harboured Salah Adbeslam, in prison for the Paris attacks in 2015.
Belgian media reported that the suspect in the latest Brussels attack was not yet known to Belgian intelligence services for terrorism and was not on any radicalisation watch list.
Business daily De Tijd however said the man was well-known to juridical authorities and police for several sexual offenses.
Among those caught up in the carnage was Rozina Spinnoy from Scotland, who was at the station when she heard gunshots at around 9pm and was forced to flee.
The mother, who is married to a Belgian and is now living in the city, told the Daily Record: 'The next thing I saw two policemen coming towards me and telling me in French to 'get out, get out and go up the stairs.'
'There were army trucks coming and sirens blaring and this was obviously just after the bomb had gone off and shots were fired so then it was chaos.'
The scene outside the station was one of panic, Mrs Spinnoy said, with taxi drivers piling as many crying locals into their cabs as possible.
The Scottish 45-year-old became desperate and said: 'I just kept thinking I wanted to get out of here and home to my three kids.'
She said the army patrolling the city was nothing out of the ordinary after last year's attack.
In an confusing case of clashing details, witnesses claimed the attacker blew up a suitcase or a trolley - while prosecutors told French paper Libre Belgique that he was carrying a backpack and an explosive belt.
Social media images showed an intense ball of fire in an almost empty underground arrival hall. Soldiers, firefighters and police surrounded the station after it was evacuated.
A train driver said he saw people running across the rail lines inside the station, broadcaster RTL reported.
Belgian Police have said an incident with a person in Brussels Central station is under control. 'The centre of Brussels is calm,' mayor Philippe Close said in a tweet.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel hailed the 'courage' of security forces and said he would chair National Security Council at the Law Street at 9am on Wednesday morning.
He thanked the military and staff of the NMBS who were present during the terrorist act.
'They responded very professionally and courageously to this situation,' he said.
A spokesman for Belgium's railway operator said: 'A crowd panicked in the station and ran for the tracks after an incident.'
'There were people crying, there were people shouting,' said Elisa Roux, a spokeswoman for the Belgian rail company SNCB.
The 1930s Central station is largely underground and located in the heart of Brussels, a few blocks from the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis statue.
Stationmaster Jean-Michel Michel was quoted by DH newspaper saying: 'We heard the explosion. My colleague thought it was a bomb. The explosion was on the mezzanine level.
'The man went down to platforms 3 and 4. He said 'Allahu Akbar'. I would put him at about 35 years old.'
The center that monitors security threats in Belgium says the available information so far doesn't yet merit going to the highest possible terror alert level.
One witness claimed he was 'lucky to be alive' after something that sounded like a 'bomb' reportedly went off just metres away from him.
Ludoivic Hampton said: 'When you're walking through Central station and something that looked and sounded like a bomb goes off 30 metres away from you. I'm lucky to be alive.'
Trains were diverted from the station and buses sent out to take passengers to the area, according to a railway spokeswoman.
Broadcaster RTL quoted Fires Services spokesman Pierre Meys confirming that some kind of an explosion had happened in the city's Central station on Tuesday. Meys could not say what had caused the blast.
He could only confirm that firefighters were at the scene.
A police spokesman said: 'There was an accident at Central Station. There was an explosion around a person. That person was neutralised by the soldiers that were on the scene.
'At the moment, the police are in numbers at the station and everything is under control.'
As Prime Minister Charles Michel consulted with his security advisers, the national alert level was maintained at its second highest level.
The Belgian capital, home to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, has been on high alert since a Brussels-based Islamic State cell launched an attack that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015.
Associates of those attackers, four months later, killed 32 people in their home city, including with bombs loaded on trolleys at Brussels Airport.
Three coordinated suicide bombings took place at the city's airport and at the Maalbeek Metro station, leaving 300 people injured.
And last August a machete-wielding man shouting 'Allahu akbar' attacked two policewomen in the industrial town of Charleroi, before being shot dead.
Combat troops have been a fixture at transport hubs and in the main public areas since the Paris attacks. A series of further attacks in neighboring France and Germany in the past year, as well as recent bloodshed in London and Manchester, have added to anxiety.