Brother of Brussels suicide bomber set for Rio Olympics

Sat May 21, 2016 9:53am EDT
 
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Mourad Laachraoui, the brother of one of the Brussels suicide bombers, has won gold at the European Taekwondo Championships and is now set to compete for Belgium at the Olympic Games in Brazil.

Older brother Najim, 24, was one of two suicide bombers who blew himself up at Brussels Airport on March 22. The attacks, including another suicide bomber on the city's metro, killed 32 people.

Mourad, aged 21, is listed among Belgium's 185-strong squad bound for the games in Rio De Janeiro starting on Aug. 5, where he will compete in the Under-58 kilogram category.

On Friday, Mourad won gold in the Under-54kg in Montreux, Switzerland, the Flemish taekwondo federation dubbing him "Europe's king of the lightweights" in a tweet.

In a news conference two days after the attacks, Mourad said his brother was a nice, intelligent boy and had given no signs of being radicalized before he left for Syria in 2013 and broke all contact with his family.

A veteran Islamist fighter in Syria, electromechanics-trained Najim is also suspected of making explosive belts for last November's Paris attacks, which killed 130 people.

"It's crazy, really - the same parents, the same upbringing, and one turns out really well and the other really bad," his lawyer Philippe Culot said in March.

"You don't choose your family," Mourad remarked.

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop)

 
Mourad Laachraoui, Belgian Taekwondo athlete and brother of Najim Laachaoui, implicated in the Brussels bombing attacks,  addresses a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2016.    REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Files