3 blasts rock Brussels, 34 dead
Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the terror strikes.
A witness said he heard shouts in Arabic and shots shortly before two blasts struck a packed airport departure lounge at Brussels airport. The federal prosecutor said one of the explosions was probably triggered by a suicide bomber.
The blasts occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police and combat troops on the streets had been on alert for reprisal but the attacks took place in crowded areas where people and bags are not searched.
All public transport in Brussels was shut down with authorities appealing to citizens not to use overloaded telephone networks. Extra troops were sent into the city and the Belgian Crisis Centre, clearly wary of a further incident, appealed to the population: “Stay where you are”. British Sky News television’s Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions”.
According to a news agency, police had found a Kalashnikov assault rifle next to the body of an attacker at the airport. Such weapons have become a trademark of Islamic State-inspired attacks in Europe, notably in Belgium and France, including on November 13 in Paris.
An unused explosive belt was also found in the area, the public broadcaster said. Police were continuing to scour the airport for any further bombs or attackers.
A witness said the blasts occurred at a check-in desk. Video showed devastation in the hall with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor. Some passengers emerged from the terminal with blood spattered over their clothes. Smoke rose from the building through shattered windows and passengers fled down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.
Public broadcaster RTBF said police were searching houses in the Brussels area.
A news agency said 20 were killed in the metro train and 14 at the airport. Authorities had earlier put the toll at 11 in the airport bombing and 15 in the underground train.
Many of the dead and wounded at the airport were badly injured in the legs, one airport worker said, suggesting at least one bomb in a bag on the floor. Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands, all wary of spillover from conflict in Syria, were among states announcing extra security measures.
The blast hit the train as it left Maelbeek station, close to European Union institutions, heading to the city centre. The VRT public broadcaster carried a photograph of a metro carriage at a platform with doors and windows completely blown out, its structure deformed and interior mangled and charred.
Meanwhile, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that all Indians are safe in Brussels. The Centre issued an alert to heighten security at major airports and metro networks across the country in the wake of multiple blasts in Brussels.
In a communication, the Central government asked the state governments and security agencies, including CISF, to beef up security at airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
At a glance
CCTV image of suspects released: Belgian police have released a CCTV image showing three suspects in the attacks at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem. The picture, taken from a CCTV camera, shows three men pushing trollies with suitcases past the check-in area.
France to deploy 1,600 extra police: French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Paris was deploying 1,600 additional police to border crossings and air, sea and rail infrastructure. “Access to public transport will be restricted to people with tickets and/or ID cards,” and they may be frisked, he said.
2 Jet Airways crew members injured: Two staffers of Jet Airways were injured in the terror attack at Brussels airport. It will not be flying to Brussels, its European hub, as Jet’s website said “flights departing to and from Brussels stand cancelled till March 26, 2016”.