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Brother of Brussels Suicide Bomber Excels to Reach Rio Olympics

Laachraoui family tells tale of two brothers whose pats could not be further apart
By The News · 21 of May 2016 09:24:51
Switzerland Taekwondo Laachraoui, Belgium's Mourad Laachraoui celebrates after winning his fight against Spain's Jesus Tortosa Cabrera, during their men -54kg final at the European Taekwondo Championships in Montreux, Switzerland, on May 19. Photo: AP/Mitchell, Keystone, No available

BRUSSELS — 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.

Spain's Jesus Tortosa Cabrera, silver, Belgium's Mourad Laachraoui, Gold, Russia's Stanislav Denisov and Mikhail Artamonov, both third place, from left to right, pose on the podium after the men -54kg finals at the European Taekwondo Championships . Photo: AP/Daniel Mitchell, Keystone

Spain’s Jesus Tortosa Cabrera, silver, Belgium’s Mourad Laachraoui, Gold, Russia’s Stanislav Denisov and Mikhail Artamonov, both third place, from left to right, pose on the podium after the men -54kg finals at the European Taekwondo Championships . Photo: AP/Daniel Mitchell, Keystone

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 kilogramme 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.

Belgium's Mourad Laachraoui  takes a break  during his fight against Spain's Jesus Tortosa Cabrera,  during their men -54kg final at the European Taekwondo Championships in Montreux, Switzerland. Photo: AP/Daniel Mitchell, Keystone

Belgium’s Mourad Laachraoui takes a break during his fight against Spain’s Jesus Tortosa Cabrera, during their men -54kg final at the European Taekwondo Championships in Montreux, Switzerland. Photo: AP/Daniel Mitchell, Keystone

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 radicalised 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.