Hope and peace the message this Easter

Religious and political leaders have used Easter to call for hope, peace and love.

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In the wake of the Belgian terror attacks church leaders used their Easter messages to offer prayers and appeal for those afflicted by “senseless violence”.

“There is more to the human story than all the violence of the world that we seem to drown in,” Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said.

“That is what today is about – there’s something more than the violence.”

Tasmanian Anglican Bishop Richard Condie said hope was essential for human flourishing.

Thousands turned out in Sydney for the Catholic Stations of the Cross devotion at St Mary’s Cathedral in the heart of the CBD and a Journey of the Cross by the Wesley Mission.

And as always in Victoria, the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal took centre stage, aiming to raise millions to provide vital medical services for the state’s sickest children.

In a video, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said while Easter was the most important time of the year for Christians, it is also a time when families and friends of all religions gather and recharge.

He believes it is a good time to reflect on the achievements of Australia’s multicultural society, the most successful in the world.

“It is mutual respect which binds us together,” he said.

“We are enriched not divided by our diversity of faiths, culture and race.”

Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wished everyone a safe holiday weekend and thanked those who would be working at home and overseas, including defence personnel, police, medical and emergency services.

“Our thoughts are with the men and women of the Australian Defence Force keeping us safe,” Mr Shorten said in his own video.

“You are spending time away from your family and friends and we are grateful.”

Fishmongers were also working hard on their busiest day of the year, including at the Sydney Fish Markets which saw more than 4000 customers before sunrise.

More than 55,000 people were expected to visit the market throughout the day where fishmongers are preparing to sell more than 440 tonne of fish over the long weekend.

Brussels attacks: Suspect Najim Laachraoui still at large

Belgian media which earlier reported the arrest on Wednesday of a prime suspect in Tuesday’s bomb attacks in Brussels said the person detained was not, in fact, Najim Laachraoui.

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La Libre Belgique newspaper said another person had been arrested. DH, which first reported the story, also said the man detained in the Anderlecht district had been misidentified.

Still awaiting confirmation from police on arrest of Najim Laachraoui. @SBSNews

— Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) March 23, 2016

Laachraoui, 25, was already sought by the police since Monday, Belgian newspaper DH says.

His DNA had been found in houses used by the Paris attackers last year, prosecutors said on Monday, and he had travelled to Hungary in September with Paris attacks prime suspect Salah Abdeslam.

Laachraoui is also suspected of being responsible for the bombs used in the Paris massacre in November after his DNA was found on suicide belts used in the Bataclan Theatre and the Stade de France.

The two suicide bombers who struck at Brussels airport have been named by Belgian state broadcaster RTBF as brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui.

Citing a police source, RTBF said the brothers who were Brussels residents were known to the authorities but for involvement in organised crime rather than terrorism.

Khalid, under a false name, had rented the flat in the Forest borough of the Belgian capital where police killed a gunman in a raid last week, RTBF said.

Investigators found after that raid an Islamic State flag, an assault rifle, detonators and a fingerprint of Abdeslam’s, who was arrested three days later.

Investigators are focusing on whether CCTV footage captured moments before the airport blasts shows two of the three suspected terrorists wearing single gloves to secrete detonators.

Zaventem’s mayor said the explosives were stowed in their luggage and detonated before reaching the security gate.

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Belgian police arrest six in bombing probe

Belgian police have arrested six people in their probe of the Islamic State suicide bombings in Brussels, while authorities in France said they had thwarted an “advanced” militant plot there.

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The federal prosecutor’s office in Belgium said the arrests came during police searches in the Brussels neighbourhoods of Schaerbeek in the north and Jette in the west, as well as in the centre of the Belgian capital.

The arrests came days after suicide bombers hit the Brussels airport and a metro train, killing at least 31 people and wounding some 270 in the worst such attack in Belgian history.

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The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, as well as coordinated attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people.

In Paris on Thursday, authorities arrested a French national suspected of belonging to a militant network planning an attack in France.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the arrest helped “foil a plot in France that was at an advanced stage”.

Earlier on Thursday, Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign over a failure to track an Islamic State militant expelled by Turkey as a suspected fighter and who blew himself up at Brussels Airport.

Brahim El Bakraoui was one of three identified suspected suicide bombers who hit the airport and metro train. At least one other man seen with them on airport security cameras is on the run and a fifth suspected bomber filmed in the metro attack may be dead or alive.

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Bakraoui’s brother Khalid, 26, killed about 20 people at Maelbeek metro station in the city centre. De Morgen newspaper said he had violated the terms of his parole in May by maintaining contacts with past criminal associates, but a Belgian magistrate had released him.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens tendered their resignations to Prime Minister Charles Michel, who asked them to stay on.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Bakraoui, 29, had been expelled in July after being arrested near the Syrian border and two officials said he had been deported a second time. Belgian and Dutch authorities had been notified of Turkish suspicions that he was a foreign fighter trying to reach Syria.

At the time, Belgian authorities replied that Bakraoui, who had skipped parole after serving less than half of a nine-year sentence for armed robbery, was a criminal but not a militant.

Security sources told Belgian media the other suicide bomber at the airport was Najim Laachraoui, a veteran Belgian Islamist fighter in Syria suspected of making explosive belts for November’s Paris attacks.

Laachraoui’s younger brother Mourad issued a statement condemning his actions, in the first public reaction from a family member of one of the Brussels attackers.

Laachraoui, 25, gave no warning sign of being radicalised before leaving for Syria in 2013 and breaking all contact with his family, Mourad told a news conference.

“He was a nice boy, and above all he was clever, that’s what I remember of him,” Mourad said of his brother, who graduated in electromechanics. He said the last time he saw him, he looked “normal”.