A laptop discarded by the terror network behind the Brussels and Paris attacks revealed how they had links with top ISIS commanders in Syria – and were planning another attack.
The computer was found two hours after a team of ISIS terrorists murdered 32 people at Brussels Airport and on the city’s Metro system on March 22 last year.
Files painstakingly retrieved from the laptop, belonging to one of the airport suicide bombers, Najim Laachraoui, show how the unit had been in contact with bomb-making experts in Syria.
It comes as police sources revealed the airport attackers may have deliberately targeted Jewish people and passengers travelling to America as they went on the rampage.
Investigators examining the laptop also found chilling instructions, distributed among terrorists before they slaughtered 130 people in a wave of shootings and bombings in Paris attack on November 13, 2015.
According to the report, they included subfiles relating to the Paris atrocity called Groupe Omar, Groupe Francais, Groupe iraquiens, Groupe métro and Groupe Schiphol.
There were also files called ‘targets’ and another using the Arabic word for explosives.
Another subfile made reference to ‘Défense’.
Belgian investigators think this referred to La Défense shopping quarter in Paris and that November 13 mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud was planning to strike the target before he was killed by French police during a dramatic siege.
It comes as police sources revealed that the ISIS suicide bombers who attacked Brussels airport last year targeted passengers travelling to the United States and also Jewish people.
The Belgian-led investigation believes a check-in counter for an American carrier was one of the targets in the March 22, 2016 attacks, the sources said on condition of anonymity.
They also suspect that travelers to Israel may have been in the crosshairs, and that airport security camera footage shows one terrorist pursuing Hasidic Jews seconds before one of the blasts.
ISIS terrorists Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui killed 16 people at Zaventem airport. Around an hour later Bakraoui’s brother Khalid attacked a metro station near EU headquarters, killing another 16.
One source close to the investigation told AFP, which contacted investigators in several countries, that one of the airport terrorists ‘attacked the Delta Airlines check-in’.
‘We know they wanted to target Americans,’ said the source, who asked not to be named. ‘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.’
The possibility that they targeted Russian travelers was an ‘option’ that had to be clarified, he said.
There were casualties from at least 40 nationalities in the Brussels attacks, but investigators and sources believe the Zaventem terrorists had specific targets.
‘Even early on (in the investigation) there were indications that they targeted US, Russian and Israeli check-in counters,’ a US law enforcement source said on condition of anonymity.
‘That understanding has held up with later investigations, including with 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 captured a month later.
Four Americans were killed at the airport and several injured, while two Israelis aged 23 and 28 were treated in Jerusalem after the attacks.
Israeli media identified the pair as members of the Belz Hassid ultra-Orthodox religious sect, who had been scheduled to fly from Brussels airport to Ben Gurion.
Sources close to the investigation added that camera footage never released to the public showed that Laachraoui 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.’
A US government source said separately that Lachraoui was targeting a Hasidic Jew.
Investigators ‘are very confident the terrorists were targeting US, Russia and Israel,’ the US government source said.
An airport source who asked not to be named said the bomb that did not explode was left near the United and El Al counters, which were facing each other.
Abrini appeared in unreleased airport CCTV footage as lagging behind the other terrorists before hiding behind a pillar covering his ears, two independent sources said.
‘Every indication was that Abrini changed his mind,’ the US law enforcement source said.
Investigators have said the terrorists were part of the same Brussels-based cell that orchestrated the November 2015 Paris attacks.
They believe they were spurred into action in Brussels by the March 18 arrest of key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.
‘Completely cornered and hunted, they clearly improvised,’ a source close to the Belgian investigation said, adding that one of the terrorists left a message on an abandoned computer apologising for not having launched a new attack on France.
Belgium had also suffered an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014 which left four people dead. The terrorist has been linked to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the Paris attacks.