After Mourad Laachraoui’s older brother Najim detonated a suicide bomb at Brussels airport in March. Now Mourad is going to the Olympics.
The 21-year-old won gold at the European Taekwondo Championship Thursday and will now be a part of Team Belgium at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
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Mourad triumphed over 18-year-old Spaniard Jesus Tortosa, winning gold in the 54kg weight class and clinching the chance to go for gold in Rio.
According to Deadspin, his chances to take the top prize in this year’s Olympics may not be that great, with the website suggesting he’s “still too young to seriously challenge for a medal.”
But the young Belgian could be a contender in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the sports news site reported.
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Mourad had to go before the media two days after the March 22 attacks and said he “couldn’t believe” what his brother did.
Belgian Taekwondo athlete Mourad Laachraoui, younger brother of Brussels attacks suspect Najim Laachraoui, gives a press conference,on March 24, 2016.
Emmanuel Dunand (AFP)/Getty Images
“Our family has the same questions you all have,” the Washington Post reported Mourad saying about Najim, the reported bomb maker for both the Brussels and Paris attacks. “He used to be a nice intelligent guy. I couldn’t believe it.”
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Mourad also said he hadn’t had any contact with his terrorist brother since 2013, after Najim left Belgium to join the ranks of the so-called Islamic State in Syria.
According to the Guardian, a former Islamic State captive also identified Najim as being a prison guard for him and four other foreign journalists held in Syria until their release in April 2014.
Prior to leaving Belgium in February 2013, Najim studied electrical engineering. He was known to have returned to Europe in August 2015. The New York Times reported Najim was crossing between Hungary and Austria, using a false identity that was noted at a police checkpoint. At the time , he was travelling with Salah Abdelslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks who was arrested in Belgium four days before the bombings in Brussels.
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