The Bible teaches us that each man should be judged for his own actions and not those of his associates. This adage seems especially relevant in the case of Mourad Laachraoui, brother of one of the Brussels bombers, as it has come to light that he was in Israel last fall, where he won a taekwondo championship, reported Ynet.
Laachraoui, 21, attended the contest in Ramle in September, where he took gold in the under 58 kg (about 128 lbs) category, beating out Israeli Gili Haimovich. He also won a silver medal in the under 54 kg (120 lbs) category in the Summer Universiade, held last year in South Korea.
During the Israeli Open Taekwondo Championship, the younger Laachraoui brother spent six days in the Jewish state.
Najim Laachraoui, 25, is thought to have blown himself up along with another terrorist during last Tuesday’s attack on Brussels’ airport, killing 14 people and injuring over 100 more, though his death has not yet been confirmed. His fingerprints were also found all over explosive devices from the attacks on Paris in November, for which he has been identified as the bomb expert.
The Laachraoui family has not had any contact with Najim since he left for Syria in 2013. At the time, the family warned police about Najim’s radicalization, and their home was searched in November, following the Paris attacks.
At a press conference Wednesday evening, Mourad disavowed his brother’s actions. “I was shocked and could not believe my brother did it, but one doesn’t choose one’s family,” he said.
Mourad described his brother as “a nice kid and very intelligent. He loved playing soccer and reading.” He and his family, however, “try not to ask too many questions about his radicalization but rather turn over a new leaf.”
According to The Daily Mail, at another press conference Thursday, held at his taekwondo club in the upscale neighborhood of Uccle, Mourad added he was “ashamed and sad” over what his brother had done. “I feel for” the victims, he said.
Prior to Mourad’s first address to the public, the Belgian Taekwondo Association posted a statement on its website, saying, “Mourad Laachraoui strongly condemns the actions of his elder brother, who was involved in the attacks in Belgium and France.”
“We know the brother personally,” Yehiam Sharabi, coach of the Israeli taekwondo team, was quoted by Haaretz as saying. “The relations between him and us were always normal and he would wish us shalom.”
The Laachraoui family, observant Muslims of Moroccan descent, has six sons. Mourad vowed to do everything in his power to keep his younger brothers from radicalizing the way Najim did.