Terrorism-blamed-for-Brussels-attacks-that-killed-at-least-31. BRUSSELS, Belgian officials believe explosions at a Brussels airport and subway station that killed at least 26 people Tuesday are linked to terrorism.
Two explosions killed at least 11 people at the Zaventem airport in Brussels’ outskirts at about 8 a.m. local time. Another explosion an hour later killed at least 15 people at the Belgian capital’s Maelbeek metro station. There are reports shots were fired and shouts in Arabic were heard before the explosions. The city’s transport system has been shut down.
At least 170 people were injured in the attacks and officials expect the death toll will rise.
Belgium’s Crisis Center said the Belgian Army neutralized a suspicious package at the airport hours after the initial attacks took place.
“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and now this has happened,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said in an address. “There are many dead and injured.”
Michel said the attacks were “blind, violent and cowardly” and a “tragic moment in our country’s history,” while he called on “everyone to show calmness and solidarity.”
Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said the three Brussels-area explosions were terrorist attacks likely carried out by suicide bombers.
The attacks come four days after Salah Abdeslam was arrested following a large-scale counter-terrorism raid in Brussels. Abdeslam is accused of being an Isis militant who helped carry out the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed at least 130 people. It’s unclear if Tuesday’s attacks are related to Abdeslam’s arrest.
France has increased security following Tuesdays explosions and French PresidentFrancois Hollande held an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss the attacks. The Netherlands and Britain have also increased security measures.
After Abdeslam’s arrest, police launched a manhunt for Najim Laachraou as police said his DNA was found in safe houses used by Abdeslam. Laachraou is accused of being one of at least three people who taught Abdelslam and sheltered him while he was sought by police in what has been called Europe’s largest manhunt.
Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, where many E.U. institutions are located. E.U. operations in the city are canceled for Monday.
“I am appalled by the bombings this morning at Zaventem airport and the European district in Brussels which have cost several innocent lives and injured many others. I extend my sincerest sympathies to the relatives and friends of the victims. These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence,” European Union President Donald Tusk said in a statement.
“The European institutions are hosted in Brussels thanks to the generosity of Belgium’s government and its people. The European Union returns this solidarity now and will fulfill its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat which we are all facing.”
By Shawn Price and Andrew V. Pestano