Two days after the deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels, investigators are still grappling with key aspects of the bombings, including exactly how many terrorists were involved, how many are still at large and the identity of the victims and the missing.
Also unclear is exactly how many people were killed in the attacks by four or possibly five terrorists. Media reports indicate at least 31 people, and perhaps as many as 34, were killed, and as many as 300 people injured.
An urgent question for investigators is the identity of a man wearing a hat and light-colored clothing who is seen on surveillance video inside the Brussels Airport on the morning of the attack walking with two of the terrorists who died in the operation, Ibrahim El Bakraoui and bombmaker Najim Laachraoui. The man is shown pushing a cart carrying luggage that contains a 35-pound bomb that did not detonate. He fled the scene before the attacks occurred.
There also may be a second terrorist on the run. French newspaper Le Monde and the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF reported that a man carrying a large bag was seen on CCTV at the Maelbeek metro station with Khalid El Bakraoui, who police identified as the suicide bomber on a subway car.
Media reports say police have put together a composite drawing of the man, who is depicted as having a long, thin face and thick eyebrows.
Meanwhile, family and friends of people missing since the attacks are frantically searching for information. The search is complicated by the fact that 61 people from among hundreds of injured remain in intensive care.
A website — called simply “Brussels Missing” — has been established as a clearing house for people looking for missing friends and relatives. It contains pleas for information and heartbreaking photos of people from their Facebook pages or vacation trips. It is broken down into four categories: Missing, Safe, Injured and Deceased.
One message, written in three languages, says simply: “My friend has no news of her mother, Fabienne Vansteenkiste. She was in the airport at the time of the attacks. If you have any information, please contact Thomas S… Thank you.”
According to local media reports, Vansteenkiste, 51, had just finished her shift as a baggage handler when the bombs exploded at the airport.
One of her friends, Ikke Egeltje, expressed anger some media have reported Vansteenkiste’s death when nothing has been officially established.
“We are very angry with these newspapers and media which confirm things so that we ourselves have not had information for two days,” Egeltje writes on the website. “Not only for us, but for all the families that remain without news and who learn these speculations … To protect us, we don’t read the media for the moment.”
In Tennessee, relatives of Justin and Stephanie Shults are equally upset over the lack of information and have enlisted the help of Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
The pair dropped Stephanie’s mother, Carolyn Moore, off at the airport in Brussels and were watching her walk through security when the bombs went off, Stephanie’s cousin Larry Newsom, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
At one point, a man described as a relative posted on Twitter that the State Department had informed family that the couple had been located. But he later posted that the information was not correct. “I shouldn’t be sending this tweet,” he wrote. “I am disgusted that the information given to us wasn’t 100% correct.”
Justin Shults worked in Brussels for a Tennessee-based manufacturing company, according to his LinkedIn profile, and Stephanie Shults worked for Mars in Brussels, the company said on its Facebook page. They both graduated in 2009 from Vanderbilt University, The Tennessean reports.
“At this time, neither Belgium nor U.S. officials have confirmed that Justin and Stephanie Shults have been located. We are thankful for the outpouring of love and support we have received at this difficult time and ask for prayers for Justin and Stephanie,” the families said in a statement issued by Corker.
SOURCE: Doug Stanglin