LATEST: Suspect independent journalist Faycal Cheffou, 'the man in white' has been released without charge, due to lack of evidence. Hunt re-opens for a new 'man in white.'
So where do we go from here? Another City, another bout of carnage. 35 dead and 250 severely injured, and from just two prepared but poorly executed incidents. Julian Bray Aviation Security Expert reports:
The outrages 'were poorly executed', as the Brussels authorities already had detailed knowledge of the two bombers "On the run for four months, and in plain sight" As one officer put it. This is in addition to the one, already detained a few days earlier - who were blown up in the process, and possibly this prompted an earlier premature date for the latest outrage.
French authorities have made it widely known they have been highly critical of their Belgian colleagues method of operation. It is being suggested that had in place, UK levels of intelligence co-operation, the bombers would have been rounded up by now, as they had left a trail of clues and damning evidence behind them at several locations.
Their minder, a 'master bombmaker' named locally as Najim Laachraoui (the third person in the latest CCTV picture is now the subject of a massive manhunt following easrlier local reports of an arrest - later discounted - and a series of intensive police & military raids - and local reports are now suggesting, his own brother was the suicide bomber for the Belgian Metro train incident.
RTBF, quoting a police source, named the suspected bombers as Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui, two brothers resident in Brussels and known to the security services for crime.
The newspaper DH said a third suspect seen with them before running away from the airport after the blasts was identified as Najim Laachraoui, 25, a man nowe the subject of a massive international manhunt and directly linked to Abdeslam.
Khalid had rented, under a false name, the apartment in the citys' Forest borough, where police hunting Abdeslam killed a gunman in a raid last week, RTBF said.
Najim Laachraoui, possibly the person with the cellphone enabled trigger device (used as a deadly failsafe back up, if any of the three, for any reason, fail to press electrical contact switches or set timing devices, on their own deadly vests, jackets or explosives laden suitcases) is pictured walking alongside but slightly apart, from the two who would be blown up for their cause.
They were thought to be wearing explosive wired up jackets and pushing on airport carts explosives laden suitcases, reinforced with bundles of nails and wire, to act as shrapnel aimed at causing maximum loss of life.
The jackets secured, possibly 'ducktaped' in such a way they could not be removed prior to detonation. The side effect of detonating the bombs, jackets and/or suitcases in an enclosed building or space, is that the blast wave effectively blows out glass walls and windows whilst lifting 1000's of loose fitted suspended metal ceiling panels, and these scythe though the air, at speed, injuring many more.
The suitcase bombs would probably be packed into heavy metal casserole type cast iron metal containers or pressure cookers, to increase the deadly effect.
Our concern is the now public knowledge that Brussels Police and their military, have what can be best expressed as 'fractured' communications, and not all intelligence is being immediately shared between the two vertical silos.
Traditionally they have operated apart with minimal operational contact at all levels.
In the UK, a different process is in place, but equally communications is at best stilted with every regional and local police force, already shedding experienced highly trained specialists following the eye-watering and in our view wholly unreasonable financial budget cuts arbitrarily imposed by the UK Treasury continuing austerity programme of flawed financial management.
We say flawed, as several targets have not been met, and our protective security and military forces are all stretched, with reservists with minimal training filling some of the gaps. Little wonder that many experienced officers are opting to take their pensions as early as possible taking their knowledge and expertise into retirement with them, possibly to re-appear as private security consultants!
Already the valuable intelligence gathered minute by minute by a comprehensive local network of neighbourhood microbeat policing has all been brushed away.
All that detailed local knowledge lost overnight, nowhere is more obvious than in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Where council workers have been drafted in (admittedly some with SIA Doorkeepers qualifications) to assist in patrolsnoramllt the preserve of police officers and PCSOs'. That financial mess can be firmly placed at the door of the UK Treasury.
Top down policy is through the COBRA system (COBRA derived from nothing more than Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) usually chaired by the Prime Minister, but with the best will in the world the PM,who came from a background as a PR man with a television station, does not fully understand the workings of the armed forces and ideally this COBRA process should be driven by the joint chiefs of staff and then integrated military and security strategies and processes handed down to the politicians for ratification.
Having been a working broadcast and print journalist all though the London 1970's IRA bombing campaign, and in the process had all the street facing windows blown out of my own London house, it is clear security techniques have moved on since those times when bombs were going off almost daily, but so has the technology freely available to those who seek to harm us.
Then very few cell phones existed, and networks sporadic, We did then have radio assisted systems such as Aircall were an FM transmitter to a single base station ( on top of the Park Lane Hilton, it relay a voice message to an operator who in turn would dial up on a regular telephone and relay your message ) with laptops not appearing until the mid 1980's (the Tandy/Radio Shack 100; the software being the very first program written by a small firm called Microsoft) and the best device was the nearest red telephone box, or calling up the BBC or LBC radio car. During part of that period I actually took the BBC London Radio Car home (by arrangement) with me, as it would at one point be called out nightly.
But time moves on, the bombers these days, can pick up for a few pounds encryption programs, that still cannot be cracked by the security authorities. And a 'professional' assault rifle (mainly sourced in Eastern Europe on the Internet) for less than £200!
There is also the European process of returning former (well trained and highly motivated, radicalised ) fighters to their European places of origin, where they have since formed a series of independent cells, to carry on their murderous work.
At least in the UK they would be arrested on return, debriefed, put before the Courts and hopefully jailed, but even they have to be released some time. There is always the possibility that radicalisation will continue inside our jails and put into action on release.
Amazingly we are still not at the highest level of security - we in the UK are currently at SEVERE rather than CRITICAL the top level. So what do we do? It means a massive change in attitude by all of us and acting as our own local intelligence force.
Reassuring and precautionary measures will be in place in the UK , but security can never be 100% guaranteed but the risk can be managed, so expect increased checks, searches, delays in transit, and other what would normally be called irritations.
Clearly we now all for our own safety have to accept this and most importantly pass on any information either through crimestoppers (anonymous) or the police generic 121 number which will automatically put you thorough to the appropriate police control room, but at your cost, being a premium rate call.
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581 Aviation Expert, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Expert, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com