Brussels: A series of apparently coordinated explosions ripped through Brussels airport and a city metro station yesterday, killing 34 people and wounding over 200 in the latest attacks to target Europe. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
A man with blood stains on his sweater leaves Brussels airport yesterday. Pic/AFP
Security was tightened across the jittery continent and transport links paralysed after the bombings. Two blasts targeted the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00am (1130 IST), with prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw saying the assault likely involved at least one suicide bomber.
Brussels airport after the explosions. Pic/PTI
A third hit Maalbeek metro station near the European Union’s main buildings, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.
People react outside Brussels airport after explosions rocked the facility. Pic/PTI
Bomb attacks at Brussels airport killed 14 people and left more than 90 wounded, a spokesman for the fire services said. “There are 96 wounded and 14 dead. These figures are likely to change; we hope to have complete figures by this evening,” the spokesman added. A local Brussels mayor said the bombing in the metro station killed around 20 people and injured 106.
Witnesses said victims lay in pools of blood at the airport, their limbs blown off.
There were chaotic scenes as passengers fled in panic, with a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building.
“A lot of people lost limbs. One man had lost both legs and there was a policeman with a totally mangled leg,” airport baggage security officer Alphonse Lyoura said.
The explosions triggered a transport shutdown in the city that is home to the headquarters of both the EU and NATO. Flights were halted with metro, tram and bus services all suspended.
The bloodshed comes days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group — after four months on the run. European leaders reacted with shock and solidarity, urging cooperation in the fight against terrorism on a continent that has been on high alert for months.
Shouts in Arabic
Witnesses said there had been shots and shouts in Arabic at the airport before the blasts hit at the airport on the northwest outskirts of Brussels. “A man shouted a few words in Arabic and then I heard a huge blast,” airport baggage security officer Alphonse Lyoura said, his hands bloodied.
Belgium’s neighbours France, Germany and the Netherlands tightened border security yesterday. In France, where November terror attacks were linked to jihadist networks in Belgium, 1,600 policemen were being deployed to border crossings, airports, ports and train stations, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. “These events that strike at the heart of Europe... show the need to reinforce even more the fight against terrorism,” the minister said.
PM Modi’s visit to go as planned
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Brussels on March 30 for the long-pending India-EU summit, notwithstanding the string of explosions in Brussels yesterday. India announced Modi’s visit to Brussels which is part of a three-nation tour including to the US and Saudi Arabia as it strongly condemned the attack. He will also hold wide-ranging talks with his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel on a variety of issues of mutual interest.
Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister
News from Brussels is disturbing. The attacks are condemnable. Condolences to families of the deceased. May those injured recover quickly
Donald Tusk President, European Union
I am appalled by the bombings this morning at Zavantem airport and the European district in Brussels which have cost several innocent lives and injured many others. These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence
Charles Michel Prime minister, Belgium
Two attacks took place this morning in Zaventam airport and Maalbeek metro station, blind, violent, cowardly attacks, There are many dead and many wounded, some of them seriously
Francois Hollande, French President
Through the attacks in Brussels, the whole of Europe has been hit. France which was itself attacked in January and November last year is fully engaged in that. France will implacably continue the fight against terrorism both on the international level and at home
Vladimir Putin, Russian President
The blasts show once more that terrorism knows no borders and threatens peopleall over the world. The fight against this evil requires vital international cooperation