Belgian officials said Wednesday the failed suicide bomber at Brussels Central Station had Islamic State sympathies and hailed from the most notorious terrorist neighborhood in Europe.
The Federal Prosecution Office in Belgium released a statement noting the attacker, identified as Oussama Zariouh, likely made the bomb at his residence in the Sint-Jans-Molenbeek neighborhood, which is the jihadi capital of Europe and a well-known “no-go zone” for police.
OZ, a 36-year-old Moroccan citizen who was known to police, walked into Brussels Central Station on Tuesday evening while carrying a suitcase bomb and started shouting. The suitcase, full of nails and gas bottles, went off, triggering a minor explosion. OZ then walked away and there was a second, slightly larger explosion, at which point OZ moved upstairs and yelled “Allahu Akbar” at a soldier, who subsequently shot and killed him.
No one was injured in the terror attack.
“We have avoided an attack that could have been a great deal worse,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said.
While initial media reports suggested OZ might have been wearing an explosive belt, those reports did not turn out to be true.
Officials also stated that when they started they found chemical substances and materials that could be used to make a bomb at the residence. They also determined that OZ had “sympathies for the terrorist organization IS.”
ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, likely in part because the terror group does not claim responsibility for failed attacks.
At the time of the attack OZ was not wanted by the police on any terror charges, but he was on the radar for sexual misconduct. That OZ lived in Molenbeek is more confirmation of the neighborhood’s connections to terrorism, which were again apparent in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. The perpetrators of that attack were from an ISIS cell based in Molenbeek.
“Almost every time there’s a link with Molenbeek,” Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said following the Paris attacks in November 2015 that killed 130 people. “We’ve tried prevention. Now we’ll have to get repressive. It’s been a form of laissez faire and laxity. Now we’re paying the bill.”
In early 2016, associates with ties to the Molenbeek ISIS cell launched an attack on Brussels at the airport and metro, resulting in the deaths of 32.
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