Ibrahim el-Bakraoui

Ibrahim el-Bakraoui was one of two suicide bombers at Zaventem airport in ISIS’s March 22, 2016, coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium.“Brussels attacks: Two brothers behind Belgium bombings,” BBC News, March 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35879141. The bombings, carried out by suicide bombers at the airport and at Brussels’ Maelbeek metro station, killed a total of 32 people and injured more than 300 others.Merrit Kennedy and Camila Domonoske, “The Victims Of The Brussels Attacks: What We Know,” NPR, March 31, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/26/471982262/what-we-know-about-the-victims-of-the-brussels-attack Then-29-year-old Ibrahim carried out the suicide bombing alongside Belgian citizen Najim Laachraoui. Ibrahim’s then-27-year-old brother, Khalid el-Bakraoui, was the single suicide bomber at Maelbeek station.“Brussels attacks: Two brothers behind Belgium bombings,” BBC News, March 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35879141. Less than one month after the attacks, ISIS claimed in its English-language magazine Dabiq that the Bakraoui brothers were organizers of both the Brussels and Paris attacks, which occurred on November 13, 2015.“The Nights of Shahadah in Belgium,” Dabiq, April 13, 2016, 6, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/the-islamic-state-22dacc84biq-magazine-1422.pdf. In response, Belgian terrorism expert Pieter Van Ostayen told the Wall Street Journal that he doubted the Bakraoui brothers had had the “operational knowledge” needed to organize the attacks, noting that they might have helped to “[provide] the weapons.”Valentina Pop, “Islamic State Claims Khalid and Ibrahim El-Bakraoui Were Organizers of Paris and Brussels Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/prosecutors-believe-raid-prompted-brussels-attacks-1460546336.

Ibrahim and his brother Khalid were born in Belgium to Moroccan parents and raised in the Brussels neighborhood of Laeken. As young men, they engaged in criminal activity including carjackings and bank robberies.“Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0;
Patrick J. McDonnell and Erik Kirschbaum, “Brussels suicide bombers fit familiar profile; links to Paris terrorist attacks seen,” Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-suspect-in-brussels-attacks-is-sought-20160323-story.html.
Ibrahim was arrested in January 2010 after partaking in a botched bank robbery during which he shot a police officer in the leg. That August, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for attempted murder, and is believed to have radicalized within the cell walls.Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0. According to a eulogy for Ibrahim published in the April 2016 issue of ISIS’s magazine Dabiq, while in prison, Ibrahim “followed the news about the atrocities against the Muslims in [Syria]. Something clicked and he decided to change his life, to live for his religion.”“The Nights of Shahadah in Belgium,” Dabiq, April 13, 2016, 6, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/the-islamic-state-22dacc84biq-magazine-1422.pdf;
Valentina Pop, “Islamic State Claims Khalid and Ibrahim El-Bakraoui Were Organizers of Paris and Brussels Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/prosecutors-believe-raid-prompted-brussels-attacks-1460546336.
Ibrahim received parole in October 2014.Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0.

Ibrahim arrived in Antalya, Turkey, in June 2015—though the circumstances of his travel there are “not clear,” according to the New York Times. He was arrested one week later by Turkish authorities in the southern city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border.Jon Henley and Kareem Shaheen, “Suicide bombers in Brussels had known links to Paris attacks,” Guardian (London), March 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/23/belgium-awkward-questions-bombers-links-to-paris-terror-cell;
Alissa J. Rubin, Kmiko de Freytas-Tamura, and Aurelien Breeden, “Brothers Among 3 Brussels Suicide Attackers; Another Assailant Is Sought,” New York Times, March 23, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/world/europe/brussels-attack.html.
It is unclear if he ever entered Syria, though New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi suggested in April 2016 that neither Ibrahim, nor his brother Khalid—who was arrested by Turkish authorities that same month—had managed to cross into Syria.Rukmini Callimachi, “In Photos, ISIS Shows How Brussels Terror Originated in Syria,” New York Times, April 13, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/world/middleeast/in-online-magazine-isis-paints-a-portrait-of-brussels-attackers.html. In mid-July, Turkish authorities alerted Belgian authorities that Ibrahim had been detained, and described him a “foreign terrorist fighter” before deporting him to the Netherlands at his request.Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0;
Jon Henley and Kareem Shaheen, “Suicide bombers in Brussels had known links to Paris attacks,” Guardian (London), March 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/23/belgium-awkward-questions-bombers-links-to-paris-terror-cell.

On March 15, 2016, one week before the Brussels bombings, an apartment that the brothers were using in the Brussels suburb of Forest was raided by authorities. Both Ibrahim and his brother Khalid evaded capture.“Brussels raid over Paris attacks: Dead gunman was Algerian national,” BBC News, March 16, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35817793; Alissa J. Rubin et al., “Brothers Among 3 Brussels Suicide Attackers; Another Assailant Is Sought,” New York Times, March 23, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/world/europe/brussels-attack.html. On March 16, the FBI reportedly sent information about the brothers to Dutch investigators, stating that Ibrahim was wanted by Belgian authorities for his criminal background.Jennifer Rankin, “FBI tipped off Dutch police about Bakraoui brothers,” Guardian (London), March 29, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/29/brussels-airport-prepares-to-reopen-after-bombs.

On the day of the Brussels attacks, Ibrahim and fellow suicide bomber Laachraoui blew themselves up in the departure hall at Zaventem airport at 7:58 a.m., killing 16 people.Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0;
Robert-Jan Bartunek, “Members of Belgian Islamic State cell jailed for up to 16 years,” Reuters, July 5, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-attacks-verviers-idUSKCN0ZL1L8.
One other accomplice, Mohamed Abrini, fled before detonating his device.Alastair MacDonald and John Irish, “'I was a suicide bomber': Paris suspect charged in Belgium,” Reuters, March 20, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-abdeslam-idUSKCN0WK1KB. Khalid el-Bakraoui carried out the suicide bombing at Maelbeek metro approximately one hour later at 9:11 a.m.“Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0;
“Brussels explosions: What we know about airport and metro attacks,” BBC News, April 9, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35869985/.
Hours after the bombings, authorities discovered explosives, bomb-making equipment, and an ISIS flag in a house in Shaerbeek, Brussels, where the Bakraoui brothers had resided.“Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui: From Bank Robbers to Brussels Bombers,” New York Times, March 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/europe/expanding-portraits-of-brussels-bombers-ibrahim-and-khalid-el-bakraoui.html?_r=0. Police also found a laptop containing a message from Ibrahim, in which he wrote: “I’m in a hurry. I don’t know what to do anymore, they’re looking for me everywhere. I’m not safe anymore. If I give myself up they’ll put me in a cell.”“Brussels attacks: Two brothers behind Belgium bombings,” BBC News, March 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35879141.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
ISIS
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, territory-controlling, religious, terrorist, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, jihadist, pan-Islamist, Salafist, takfiri
Position(s):
Suicide bomber in ISIS’s March 2016 Brussels attacks (Zaventem)

ISIS is a violent jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria. The group has declared wilayas (provinces) in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the North Caucasus. ISIS has also waged attacks in Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium, Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tunisia, and Kuwait.

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