Sources: Brussels Airport Bombers Targeted U.S. Travelers, Jews

Broken windows seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

The Islamic State suicide bombers who attacked Brussels airport last March targeted passengers traveling to the United States and also Jewish people, according to sources quoted by AFP Tuesday.

The Belgian-led investigation believes that a check-in counter for an American airline was one of the targets in the attack, the sources said on condition of anonymity. They also suspect that travelers to Israel may have been targeted, noting that airport security camera footage shows one bomber apparently pursuing religious Jews mere seconds before one of the blasts.

One source close to the investigation told AFP, which contacted investigators in several countries, that one of the airport bombers “attacked the Delta Airlines check-in.”

“We know they wanted to target Americans,” said the source. “It’s clear they had quite specific targets.”

Asked if these targets included the check-in counter for a flight to Israel, he replied: “We know they were obsessed with the Israelis too.”

There were casualties from at least 40 nationalities in the Brussels attacks, but investigators and sources believe the airport bombers had specific targets.

“Even early on [in the investigation] there were indications that they targeted U.S., Russian and Israeli check-in counters,” a U.S. law enforcement source told AFP.

“That understanding has held up with later investigations, including with [Mohamed] Abrini’s alleged confession,” the source said.

Mohamed Abrini is the so-called “man in the hat” who fled the airport without detonating his suitcase bomb after his accomplices set off theirs. He was arrested a month after the attack.

Four Americans were killed at the airport and several others were injured, while two Israeli men were treated in Yerushalayim after the attacks.

Sources close to the investigation added that surveillance camera footage never released to the public showed that one of the terrorists had been standing among some 60 high school students before deciding to pursue two Orthodox Jews.

“The attacker seemed to rush towards two Orthodox Jews,” one of the sources said. “He really, clearly wanted to kill a Jew.”

Investigators “are very confident they [terrorists] were targeting U.S., Russia and Israel,” the U.S. government source said.

The attack occurred around 8:00 a.m. on a Tuesday, shortly before scheduled flights to all three countries by United, American, Delta, El Al, Brussels Airlines and Russia’s Aeroflot, according to airport and other sources.

An airport source said the bomb that did not explode was left near the United and El Al counters, which were facing each other.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that “Israel does not comment publicly on security-related issues” when asked about the March 2016 attacks. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

Russia’s investigation committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, said it is “not investigating the Brussels attacks.”