Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt looks at CCTV images of a suspect in the attack which took place at the Brussels international airport of Zaventem, projected on a screen during a news conference in Brussels, Belgium April 7, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The suicide bombers in the Islamic State-claimed attack at the Brussels airport last year were "obsessed" with targeting Israeli passengers, AFP on Tuesday cited sources familiar with the Belgian-led investigation as saying.
Several sources told the press agency that the pair of bombers at Belgium's main airport had targeted passengers going to the US along with Jewish travelers.
Investigators “are very confident they were targeting US, Russia and Israel,” an American government official told AFP.
Airport security footage from the day of the attack shows one attacker purportedly pursuing ultra-Orthodox Jews shortly before one explosion.
“The attacker seemed to rush towards two Orthodox Jews,” said one of the sources. “He really, clearly wanted to kill a Jew.”
Brussels attack suspects
During the deadly event last March, two suspected ISIS terrorists killed 16 people in bombings at Brussels Airport while a separate Islamist bomber killed an additional 16 people at Belgian metro station.
While the causalities in the attacks hailed from at least 40 nations, investigators and sources believe the bombers specifically sought certain targets. At least one Israeli national was wounded in the attack.
“We know they wanted to target Americans,” on source speaking on anonymity told AFP. “It’s clear they had quite specific targets.”
“We know they were obsessed with the Israelis too,” the added, while refraining from addressing whether the attackers had targeted a check-in counter for an Israel-bound flight.
The source added that there was also an "option" that Russian travelers had be targeted.
“Even early on there were indications that they targeted US, Russian and Israeli check-in counters,” an anonymous US law enforcement official told AFP of the investigation.
The source stated that those suspicions were further backed by additional investigations and the alleged confession of one suspected accomplice to the suicide bombers.
Mohamed Abrini, who claims to be "the man in the hat" seen in footage walking into the Brussels airport alongside two suicide bombers, told investigators last year
that his accomplices had made plans to attack travelers at the hub in Belgium who were flying to Tel Aviv among other destinations.
According to French BFM TV on Thursday, Abrini described the Belgian El-Bakraoui brothers and suicide bomber Najim Laachraoui as having the leading roles in the attacks at the airport and a metro stop that left 32 people killed.
Abrini, who was captured on in April 2016, also claimed that Ibrahim El-Bakraoui had chosen the targets in the attack at Zaventem Airport in Brussels, which included waiting halls with passengers flying to Israel, the US and Russia. Reuters contributed to this report.