Mourad Laachraoui won gold at the European Taekwondo Championships in Montreux, Switzerland on Thursday. He’s now eligible to represent Belgium at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in August.
Mourad’s brother choose a very different life path. Laachraoui’s older brother was one of the suicide bombers responsible for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium.
Laachraoui is French and he was born in Belgium. He’s of Moroccan decent. He’s from a family of practicing Muslims but attended Catholic school.
Laachraoui won the 54kg weight class, beating 18-year-old Spanish fighter Jesus Tortosa 6-3 to take the title.
A photo posted by Moouraad Laachraoui (@mouradidouda) on Jun 5, 2014 at 2:36pm PDT
A photo posted by Moouraad Laachraoui (@mouradidouda) on Sep 9, 2015 at 5:21am PDT
Laachraoui says his family had no contact with his brother Najim Laachraoui since he fled to Syria three years ago. Attempts to contact him through Facebook to make him come back failed.
The family lived only a mile from the apartment where the bomber prepared the attacks.
The Laachraoui family was shocked by the events. Immediately after the airport bombing, Mourad’s father became very unwell.
“Our family has the same questions you all have,” Mourad said. “He used to be a nice intelligent guy. I couldn’t believe it.”
“You don’t choose your family,” he says.
“When we were younger we were close, but as I became more passionate about sport we grew apart.”
His lawyer added: “They will have to live with the guilt of knowing they are the family of a terrorist forever.”
Mourad says he has no idea why his brother would do the things he did.
Najim, along with another man, detonated suitcases packed with nails in the check-in at a Brussels airport. 14 people died. He triggered his suitcase bomb using a detonator hidden in his glove. In total, he claimed 32 lives that day.
Najim’s fingerprints were also found all over the devices and the suicide belts used in the Paris massacre in November that killed 130 people.
Mourad is ranked No. 3 in the world in his class. He’s qualified for the Olympics. However, there are only four classes at Rio, Laachraoui doesn’t make the top-10 rankings in the lightest Olympic class, under-58kg. If Belgium picks him, he will compete against a heavier weight class.