Brussels attacks toll rises to 34: media

Agencies BRUSSELS | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 22, 2016
Black smoke is seen rising from the Brussels airport following explosions.

Black smoke is seen rising from the Brussels airport following explosions.   -  Reuters

General view of the Zaventem's international airport near Brussels. File Photo

General view of the Zaventem's international airport near Brussels. File Photo   -  Reuters

The departure hall of Brussel airport after the two explosions. Photo credit:

blast   -  Photo credit:

Police find bomb belt at Zaventem airport , Belgian media reported.

Belgian public broadcaster VRT raised the death toll from Tuesday's twin attacks in Brussels to 34, with 20 people killed in the blast on a metro train and 14 in explosions at the airport.

Two explosions targeted the main hall of Zaventem Airport, with a third hitting the Maalbeek metro station near the European Union’s main buildings, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.

Brussels mayor said 20 believed dead in metro blast

At least 20 people were killed in a blast on a Brussels metro train on Tuesday, the mayor of Brussels said at a news conference. “There are some 20 people dead and 106 people injured. 17 people are severely injured,” said Yvan Mayeur.

All public transport in Brussels was shut down, as it was in London during 2005 militant attacks on the underground that killed 52. The Belgian Crisis Centre, clearly wary of a further incident, appealed to the population: “Stay where you are".

The deadly explosions at Brussels airport on Tuesday were carried out by a suicide bomber, Belgium's federal prosecutor said, broadcasters VTM and RTBF reported, without giving more details.

Police find assault rifle next to dead attacker at Brussels airport -VRT

Belgian police have found a Kalashnikov assault rifle next to dead attacker at Brussels airport, the Belgian public broadcaster VRT said on Tuesday.

Belgian police also found a discarded bomb belt at Brussels airport and the bomb squad will explode it, Belgian private broadcaster VTM said.

The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before two blasts rang out at the airport. Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.

Belgian authorities urge media blackout on blast probe

Belgian authorities urged the media to refrain from reporting on the probe into triple bomb attacks in Brussels today .

“The federal prosecutor notes that certain journalists are reporting information about the investigation under way,” a statement said.

“The federal prosecutor urges the press to immediately refrain from conveying information relative to the investigation so as not to harm the inquiry,” it said.

Speaking to local television, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said: “We fear that people are still at large” following the attacks on Brussels airport and a busy metro station.

Federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw earlier said the authorities “were doing everything possible to track down the attackers and to see if there are others who may have fled“.

Belgian private broadcaster VTM said the bomb squad was also checking a suspect package at the University of Brussels.

Brussels university tells everyone to stay indoors, possible new threat

Brussels university VUB urged everyone at its Etterbeek campus in the southeast of the city to go indoors immediately and stay inside after the twin attacks.

“Security counsel strongly urges everyone at campus Etterbeek to immediately move indoors and stay there,” VUB said on Twitter.

Toon Vanagt, a Twitter user reportedly inside the university tweeted, “police just ordered me to stay inside due to imminent bomb threat near VUB campus.”

House searches ongoing in Brussels: RTBF

House searches are ongoing in the region around Brussels after the twin attacks, public broadcaster RTBF said on Twitter.

The blats triggered security alerts across western Europe and bringing some cross-border transport to a halt.

The blasts at the airport and metro station occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action.

British Sky News television's Alex Rossi, at the airport, said he heard two “very, very loud explosions".

“I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well...I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked.”

“The thinking here is that it is some kind of terrorist attack - that hasn't been verified by any of the authorities here at the airport.”

The blasts triggered concern across western Europe with Britain calling a meeting of its crisis response committee. The Dutch military strengthening security at airports and borders and London's major airports Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and City said they were working to provide a high police presence.

German minister says Belgium attacks against whole EU

The attacks in Brussels on Tuesday appear to be aimed not just at Belgium but at the entire European Union (EU) and its freedoms, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

“It seems that the clear targets of the attacks - an international airport, a metro station close to EU institutions - indicate that this terrorist attack is not aimed solely against Belgium but against our freedom, freedom of movement, mobility and everyone in the EU,” he told a news conference in Berlin.

Video showed devastation inside the departure hall with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor. Some passengers emerged from the terminal with blood spattered over their clothes. A witness said the blasts occurred at a check-in desk.

The metro station hit by the explosion was Maelbeek, close to European Union institutions. There were no details immediately available of casualties in this second incident of the morning.

A spokesman for officials working in the European Parliament nearby said the legislature was working normally

Metro operator STIB announced on Twitter that the metro was closing.

VRT said the blast went off on a carriage of the underground train but that no one was killed. Earlier, private broadcaster VTM had said there were reports of the metro death toll at 10.

Other media reports cited the transport authority saying the explosion was on a train travelling between Schuman and Maelbeek stations, close to the EU instutions.

A local journalist tweeted a photograph of a person lying covered in blood among smoke outside Maelbeek metro station, on the main Rue de la Loi avenue which connects central Brussels with the EU institutions.

The European Commission told staff to stay indoors.

Ambulances were ferrying the wounded away and sirens rang out across the area.

Flights cancelled, passengers evacuated

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on his twitter feed: “We are following the situation minute by minute. Our priority concern is for the victims and those present in the airport. “For now, we are asking everyone to avoid all movement.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose country is also on a high security alert, expressed shock over the attack. “We will do everything we can to help.”

Brussels airport said it had cancelled all flights until at least 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Wednesday and the complex had been evacuated and trains to the airport had been stopped. Passengers were taken to coaches from the terminal that would remove them to a secure area.

Brussels Airport serves over 23 million passengers a year.

All three main long-distance rail stations in Brussels were closed and train services on the cross-channel tunnel from London to Brussels were suspended.

Police did not give any confirmation of the cause of the blast. But there has been a high state of alert across western Europe for fear of militant attacks backed by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack.

While most European airports are known for stringent screening procedures of passengers and their baggage, that typically takes place only once passengers have checked in and are heading to the departure gates.

Although there may be discreet surveillance, there is nothing to prevent member of the public walking in to the departure hall at Zaventem airport with heavy baggage.

Following an attempted ramraid attack at Glasgow Airport in 2007, several airports stepped up security at entrances by altering the pick-up and drop-off zones to prevent private cars getting too close to terminal buildings.

European stocks fell after the explosions, particularly travel sector stocks including airlines and hotels, pulling the broader indices down from multi-week highs. Safe-haven assets, gold and government bonds rose in price.

French citizen Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect for November's Paris attacks on a stadium, cafes and a concert hall, was captured by Belgian police after a shootout on Friday.

Belgium's Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, said on Monday the country was on high alert for a revenge attack. “We know that stopping one cell can ... push others into action. We are aware of it in this case,” he told public radio.

Tihange nuclear power plant evacuated: VTM

Belgium's Tihange nuclear power plant has been evacuated, public broadcaster VTM said without giving further details.

Tihange could not immediately be reached for comment.

“The police have evacuated the Tihange nuclear station,” VTM said, citing police sources.

Supporters of Islamic State praise Brussels blasts on social media

Supporters of Islamic State praised on social media blasts in Brussels that killed about 20 people on Tuesday.

“The state will force you to reevaluate your ways a thousand times before you are emboldened to kill Muslims again, and know that Muslims now have a state to defend them,” said one supporter of the group on Twitter.

No report of any Indian casualty in Brussels explosions: MEA

There has been no report of any Indian casualty in the twin explosions at the Brussels airport, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said today. “We have spoken to our Ambassador. No reports of any Indian casualties,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

Brussels attack condemnable: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today termed the attacks at Brussels airport that left many dead and wounded as “condemnable”, saying the news is “disturbing“.

“News from Brussels is disturbing. The attacks are condemnable. Condolences to families of the deceased. May those injured recover quickly,” Modi tweeted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Belgium on March 30 for the India-EU Summit. From Belgium, he is scheduled to travel to Washington for Nuclear Security Summit from March 31.

One British national injured in Brussels explosions: Cameron spokeswoman

A British national was among those injured after two explosions at Brussels airport, a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

The spokeswoman said there was no detail of other British casualties at this stage from the attacks on the airport and a rush-hour metro train.

“We don't have confirmation of any other casualties or, for the worst, fatalities at this stage but details are still emerging so that picture and that information could change,” she said.

British police have said they would step up their presence at key locations and transport hubs as a precaution following the attacks, and Cameron's spokeswoman said the British intelligence hub, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, had advised there was no need to raise the UK threat level.

This currently stands at the second-highest level of "severe” meaning an attack is considered highly-likely.

Belgian flag to light up Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is to be lit up in Belgian colours on Tuesday evening as a symbol of support in Paris for the people of Brussels after twin attacks.

“In solidarity with the people of Brussels, Paris will light up the Eiffel Tower this evening in the colours of the Belgian flag,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on her Twitter account.

Audi shuts Brussels plant

Volkswagen's Audi unit shut its Brussels plant on Tuesday after deadly twin attacks.

A spokeswoman said the German luxury carmaker was cancelling its afternoon shift after the Belgian government recommended its citizens stay at home, and said Audi would wait for police advice before deciding on its next steps.

She added that security had been stepped up at the factory, which employs about 2,500 workers in the south west of the city.

Tourism stocks knock Britain's FTSE

Britain's top share index slipped on Tuesday, hit by falling travel and leisure stocks after a series of explosions in Brussels at its airport and a metro station.

The FTSE 350 Travel and Leisure sector was 1.6 per cent lower, with airlines IAG and easyJet down 4 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively.

Other travel groups such as TUI and cruise operator Carnival fell around 3 per cent, while Intercontinental Hotel Group fell 2.3 per cent.

Among mid-caps, tour group Thomas Cook fell 5.4 per cent. It said that bookings were lower than last year due to uncertain geopolitical conditions, but prices were holding up and it was sticking with its annual guidance.

“(Events in Brussels are) clearly and understandably going to dent consumer confidence and it's making life very difficult for the travel companies and the airlines, and that was evidenced with Thomas Cook today, they (had) a very cautious trading update,” Wyn Ellis, director of travel & leisure equity research at Numis Securities, said.

“The problem now is that we're having a whole series of these events, and until they stop, the fear is that they're going to continue.”

Britain's FTSE 100 index was down 26.45 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 6,158.13 at 0935 GMT, having touched its lowest level since March 11 in early trade.

Gold rose after investors sough so-called “safe haven" assets, boosting precious metals miners Fresnillo and Randgold, up 2.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

Published on March 22, 2016
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