One of the Brussels bombers was arrested in Turkey and deported back to Belgium in June with a warning that he was a militant, it was sensationally revealed this afternoon.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ibrahim El Bakraoui was arrested in Gaziantep in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border last summer.
He said the Belgian authorities had failed to confirm the suspect’s links to terrorism ‘despite our warnings that he was a foreign fighter’ following his deportation.
Ibrahim and another militant went on kill 14 people and injure dozens of other when they set off suicide vests at Brussels airport yesterday.
The revelation comes after it emerged he left a suicide note telling how he was desperate to blow himself up because he did not want to go to prison like his friend, the Paris logistics chief Salah Abdeslam.
The typed note, found next to 15kg of homemade explosives, an AK-47 and an ISIS flag, said: ‘I don’t know what to do. I’m in a hurry. I’m on the run. People are looking for me everywhere. And if I give myself up then I’ll end up in a cell.’
Meanwhile, Brussels master bombmaker Najim Laachraoui – known as the ‘Man in White’ – is still on the run today after evading a series of special forces raids following the deadly attacks which killed 34 yesterday.
Belgium’s chief prosecutor this afternoon confirmed is ‘still at large’ after Belgian media reported the explosives expert was taken alive by a SWAT team inside a pizzeria in the Anderlecht suburb of the city.
The latest twist came after Belgian brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui were named as two of the ISIS suicide bombers – eight days after they escaped police in a gunfight – and it is now clear there is a mystery fourth suicide bomber.