Explosive TATP used in Brussels Central Station attack, initial exam shows

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The powerful explosive TATP was used in the failed Brussels train station attack, according to an initial assessment of the remains of the device, a senior Belgian counter-terrorism official told CNN Wednesday. The official also said investigators believe the TATP failed to detonate because of the poor preparation of the explosive, which Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office believes was made at the suspect’s home.

“As part of the investigation into the terrorist attack of 20 June 2017 at the Brussels Central Station, the preliminary results of the search carried out in the residence of the suspect O.Z. in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, showed that he probably made the bomb there,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday.

The statement also said there are “indications that the suspect had sympathies for the terrorist organization IS (Islamic State, or ISIS).”

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Earlier, Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said earlier the man has been identified as a Moroccan national in his 30s. A source close to the investigation told CNN the man’s name is Oussama Zariouh.

Soldiers on patrol at the station shot the man dead as he ran toward them shouting, “Allahu Akbar,” Van Der Sypt said, giving the most detailed account yet from Belgian authorities of what happened Tuesday night.

No one was injured, but the partial explosion set off panic shortly after 8:40 p.m. local time as people ran for cover.

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The outcome could have been far worse, Van Der Sypt said, adding that the man’s suitcase contained nails and gas canisters. “It’s clear that he wanted certainly to cause more damage than he did,” he said.

No suicide belt

Van Der Sypt told reporters the man entered the station at 8:39 p.m., five minutes before leaving his suitcase in the ticket hall. The case then partially exploded and, with the luggage in flames, the suspect went down to a platform in pursuit of a station master, he said.

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The suitcase then exploded a second time, causing a more powerful blast. The man returned to the main ticket hall and rushed toward a military police officer, again shouting “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is the greatest!” in Arabic. He was shot several times and died at the scene, Van Der Sypt said. He was not wearing a suicide belt or vest.

Van Der Sypt gave the man’s initials as O.Z. but did not name him, in line with usual practice in Belgium. The suspect was of Moroccan origin, born in January 1981, and lived in the Molenbeek-St.-Jean area of Brussels, where his home was searched overnight, Van Der Sypt said.

He was not known to the police for terrorism-related activities, Van Der Sypt said. He declined to say whether police were aware of him for any other kind of offense.

The attack is being treated as a terrorist incident, and anti-terror authorities are heading up the investigation, he said.

The explosive TATP was used in the November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels bombings and the May 2017 Manchester bombing. TATP is a high explosive that is much more powerful than that used in the April 2013 Boston bombings. It is made by adding an acid to a mixture of acetone and hydrogen peroxide solution. These chemicals are commercially available in the West but TATP is tricky to make. Most Islamist terrorists who have successfully made TATP have received some form of terrorist training.

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Prime Minister: Belgium won’t be intimidated

A witness who was inside Brussels Central Station said he heard two explosions and then heard someone yell “Allahu Akbar!” twice, followed by heavy gunfire.

Armed patrols, including two bomb disposal units, surrounded the station, which was evacuated and closed Tuesday evening. It reopened to travelers Wednesday morning.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel vowed Wednesday that terrorists would not intimidate Belgium, saying: “We want to defend our liberty.”

The country will remain at threat level 3, meaning the threat is serious but an imminent attack is not likely, he said.

A concert by the band Coldplay at the King Baudouin Stadium will go ahead Wednesday night as planned, with additional security measures, Michel said.

There will be a heightened security presence through the day in train and metro stations, the Belgian Crisis Center tweeted. Public events will also have increased security.