Khalid el-Bakraoui

Khalid el-Bakraoui was the 27-year-old suicide bomber at Maelbeek metro station in ISIS’s March 22, 2016, coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium. The bombings, carried out by suicide bombers at the metro station and at Brussels’ Zaventem airport, killed a total of 32 people and injured more than 300 others. Bakraoui’s then-29-year-old brother, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, was one of two suicide bombers at Zaventem airport.“Brussels attacks: Two brothers behind Belgium bombings,” BBC News, March 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35879141;
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;
“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.
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. According to reports, Khalid is believed to have rented several apartments in Belgium which were used as safe houses by jihadists planning the Paris and Brussels attacks.“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.

Khalid and his brother Ibrahim 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.

In the fall of 2009, at the approximate age of 20, Khalid reportedly partook in at least four carjackings. That October, he and two accomplices reportedly kidnapped an employee of AXA Bank, forced her to drive to an AXA branch in Brussels, and deactivate the alarm system. The men stole 41,000 euros.“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. The following month, Khalid was arrested in a Brussels warehouse filled with stolen automobiles after carjacking an Audi S3. He was detained but ultimately not charged.“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. Khalid was arrested again in early 2011 for illegal possession of Kalashnikov rifles.Jacob Pramuk and Antonia Matthews, “Turkey: We deported suspected Brussels bomber,” CNBC, March 23, 2016, https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/23/brussels-airport-suicide-bombers-were-brothers-el-bakraoui-known-to-police-report.html. That September, he was convicted by a Belgian court of criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, possession of stolen cars, and possession of weapons. He was sentenced to five years in prison.“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 Khalid published in the April 2016 issue of ISIS’s magazine Dabiq, Khalid turned to ISIS’s cause while in prison.“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.
Allegedly radicalized, Khalid received parole in 2013, but was rearrested in April 2015 for meeting with a known criminal associate. He was swiftly released from custody and subsequently fled the country.“Brussels suicide bomber had violated parole but was released by court,” Reuters, March 24, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-belgium-blast-parole-idUSKCN0WQ25R.

In June 2015, Khalid was detained by Turkish officials near the Syrian border and deported to Belgium.“Brussels attacks: Two brothers behind Belgium bombings,” BBC News, March 23, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35879141. It is unclear if he ever entered Syria, though New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi suggested in April 2016 that neither Khalid nor his brother Ibrahim—who was also arrested by Turkish authorities in June 2015—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. Khalid’s freedom of movement was not restricted upon his return to Belgium, and the following month he reportedly flew from Italy to Greece.Giovanni Legorano, “Brussels Terrorist Khalid el-Bakraoui Traveled to Greece From Italy,” Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/brussels-terrorist-khalid-el-bakraoui-traveled-to-greece-from-italy-1459184175. By mid-late 2015, he was the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant, reportedly because he had violated the terms of his parole.“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.

Beginning in September 2015, Bakraoui rented two apartments in Belgium—one in the south-central city of Charleroi, and the other in the Forest district of Brussels—using the alias Ibrahim Maaroufi. The apartments were used as safe houses by assailants associated with the Paris and Brussels attacks.“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;
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.
Authorities reportedly began tracking Khalid in 2015, and in October 2015, raided his home address. Authorities found jihadist content on his laptop, but found no weapons or materials for which they could arrest him.Saim Saeed, “Brussels bomber’s home was searched days before Paris attacks: report,” Politico, March 3, 2018, https://www.politico.eu/article/khalid-el-bakraoui-terrorism-brussels-bombers-home-was-searched-days-before-paris-attacks-report/. Following the Paris attacks, on December 9, 2015, authorities raided Khalid’s Charleroi apartment.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. Two days later, Khalid was the subject of two arrest warrants—one international and one European—issued by Parisian judges investigating the Paris attacks.“Khalid El Bakraoui avait loué sous un faux nom une planque belge pour les commandos du 13 Novembre,” Liberation, March 24, 2016, http://www.liberation.fr/direct/element/khalid-el-bakraoui-avait-loue-sous-un-faux-nom-une-planque-belge-pour-les-commandos-du-13-novembre_33736/. Khalid’s Forest safe house was raided one week before the Brussels bombings, on March 15, 2016. Both Khalid and his brother Ibrahim evaded capture.Alastair Jamieson and Annick M’Kele, “Brussels Attacks: El Bakraoui Brothers Were Jailed for Carjackings, Shootout,” NBC News, March 23, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/brussels-attacks/brussels-attacks-el-bakraoui-brothers-were-jailed-carjackings-shootout-n544241. On March 16, the FBI reportedly sent information about the brothers to Dutch investigators, stating that Khalid was wanted by Belgian authorities for “terrorism, extremism and recruitment.”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 bombings, Khalid carried out a suicide bombing in the second car of a subway train at Maelbeek metro station at 9:11 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;
“Brussels explosions: What we know about airport and metro attacks,” BBC News, April 9, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35869985/.
Moments before the explosion, he was seen alongside Swedish citizen Osama Krayem, who authorities believe played an “operational role” in the bombings.Greg Botelho, Paul Cruickshank, and Kevin Conlon, “‘Man in the hat’: Brussels airport suspect in custody,” CNN, April 9, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/09/europe/brussels-attack-arrests-police/. Krayem was arrested on April 8, 2016, alongside Mohamed Abrini, a U.S.-sanctioned suspect in both the Paris and Brussels attacks. Abrini admitted to being the third man captured on CCTV footage at the Zaventem airport on the day of the Brussels bombings, standing alongside airport suicide bombers Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui.Umberto Bacchi, “Europe’s most wanted: Mafia boss and Islamist attacker in EU’s top fugitives list,” International Business Times, January 29, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/europes-most-wanted-mafia-boss-islamist-attacker-eus-top-fugitives-list-1540868;
“Paris attacks suspect Abrini arrested: Belgian broadcaster VRT,” Reuters, April 8, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-abrini-arrest-idUSKCN0X51QK?utm_source=twitter.
Hours after the attacks, 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.

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

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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