The new issue of ISIS’ English-language magazine provides clues about the Brussels attackers

Khalid ibrahim el bakraoui brothers
Khalid (left) and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, the Belgian brothers identified as the suicide bombers who struck Brussels on 22 March. Belgian Police

ISIS released the latest edition of its English-language propaganda magazine this week, and it provides some clues about the backgrounds of the terrorists who attacked Belgium last month.

Unlike the main players in the Paris attacks that killed 130 people in November, the men who are thought to have carried out the Brussels bombings seem to have been radicalized and trained in Europe.

Authorities have been scrambling to secure Europe’s borders to prevent terrorists from returning to the continent after training with extremist groups in Syria, but that might not always be enough to prevent future attacks.

ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) noted in its magazine that the brother suicide bombers in the Brussels attacks were radicalized while imprisoned in Europe.

The magazine, Dabiq, which is aimed at a Western audience, claims that Khalid al-Bakraoui followed the news about “atrocities against Muslims” in Syria while he was incarcerated.

His brother, Ibrahim, claimed to have had a “life-changing dream” while he was in prison that motivated him to fight “the disbelievers.”

The brothers had been in prison for violent crimes including car jacking and bank robbery, according to The New York Times.

And while Ibrahim was reportedly deported by Turkey last year because authorities suspected him of trying to travel to Syria, Dabiq does not claim that he ever fought or trained in Syria.

New York Times terrorism correspondent Rukmini Callimachi pointed out on Twitter that what’s notable about the biographies of the Brussels attackers in Dabiq is that only one of them, Najim Laacharoui, appears to have travelled to Syria.

Here’s her analysis:








The Times identified Laacharoui as “one of the key connections” between the Paris and Brussels attackers. He was known as the bomb maker who made weapons for both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

He was born in Morocco, grew up in Brussels, and went to Syria in 2013, according to the Times.

He lived in the Schaerbeek neighbourhood in Brussels when he was a teenager.

The area is now becoming known as a hotspot for jihadist recruitment.

A French police official cast doubt on the claims in Dabiq, telling The Wall Street Journal that it’s important not to forget that Dabiq is “a propaganda tool for Islamic State.”

The magazine did not give information on the suspects in the attacks who are still at large.

Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgian expert in Islamic affairs, told the Journal that ISIS’ claims about how the Bakraoui planned and carried out the attacks are likely exaggerated. Dabiq linked the brothers to both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

“I doubt the Bakraoui brothers had the operational knowledge,” Van Ostaeyen told the Journal. “They could have helped easily in providing the weapons, as they were hardened criminals, but I don’t see them capable of organising all of this.”

Dabiq articles lauding the terrorists who carry out attacks on Western soil are becoming a regular occurrence in the magazine.

After the Paris attacks, Dabiq featured an interview with one of the architects of the massacre, who bragged about evading authorities and travelling back to Europe from Syria.

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