Brussels Bomber's Brother Won Taekwondo Gold Medal in Israel

Mourad Laachraoui told a press conference that he was 'ashamed and sad' at the actions of his brother Najim, who blew himself up at Brussels airport on Tuesday.

Mourad Laachraoui, center, at the press conference in Brussels on Thursday.
AFP

Mourad Laachraoui, brother of terrorist Najim Laachraoui, who blew himself up in Brussels airport on Tuesday, is a medal-winning sportsman who won the Israeli Open Taekwondo Championship in Ramle in September.

Fourteen people were killed and dozens wounded when Najim, 25, and another terrorist blew themselves up at the airport earlier this week. Another twenty people were killed and over 100 wounded in the simultaneous bombing of a subway train in Brussels.

Mourad Laachraoui, 21, told a press conference in Brussels on Thursday that he was "ashamed and sad" about what his older brother had done and declared that he would never be able to understand why Najim blew himself up in the airport attack, the Mail Online reported.

He claimed that his family had no contact with Najim since he left Belgium for Syria three years ago, despite living only a mile from the flat where Najim prepared the attacks.

"Our family has the same questions you all have," he said. "He used to be a nice intelligent guy. I couldn't believe it."

"I'm not trying to understand, I'm trying to move on and turn the page," Mourad said. Asked if he had a message for the victims, Mourad said: "I feel for them."

Belgian officials have said that Najim Laachraoui was an expert bomb-maker, who prepared the explosive devices for both this week's attacks in Brussels and the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris last November.

Mourad was speaking for the first time since the attacks at a press conference at his taekwondo club in Uccle, a well-off neighborhood in the south of Brussels.

He spent six days in Israel, from September 3 – 8, while participating in the local taekwondo championships, according to a report on the ynet website. He won a gold medal in the 58 kg weight category, beating Israeli Gil Haimovitz in the final.

"We know the brother personally," said Yehiam Sharabi, coach of the Israeli taekwondo team. "The relations between him and us were always normal and he would wish us shalom."

After winning a silver at the world championships in South Korea last year, Mourad is on a program for young athletes aiming to win gold at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Mourad said he had tried to contact his brother by Facebook in order to bring him back after he left for Syria in February 2013, but had not been able to reach him.

Asked if he would continue to represent his country in taekwondo, he said: "I fought, I fight, I will always fight."

Since the death of Najim, Mourad's father has remained holed up in the family home in the Schaerbeek district with the curtains closed. The property was searched after the Paris attacks but police found nothing suspicious.