Deadly Explosions Rock Brussels Airport And Subway

At least 34 people were killed.

03/22/2016 03:51 am ET | Updated Mar 22, 2016
  • Nearly 200 people were injured in the blasts.

  • ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

  • The incidents occurred just days after the suspected mastermind of the Paris terror attacks was arrested.

Belgium was struck by the worst attack in its history on Tuesday as terrorist explosions ripped through the main airport and a train station in the capital, leaving dozens dead and nearly 200 injured, many of them suffering from amputations.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which occurred just days after the last fugitive of last year’s Paris attacks was captured in the same city. Belgian authorities released images of the three suspects, and began a wave of raids surrounding Brussels to hunt down the one believed to still be alive.

Belgian media reported that at least 14 people were killed in a bombing and an apparent suicide attack at the Zaventem airport, where gunfire was also reported.

An additional 20 were killed in blasts that occurred about an hour later at the Maelbeek metro station, transit officials told Flemish public broadcaster VRT. The station is close to both the European Union headquarters and U.S. Embassy. 

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said that 106 people were injured in the train station attack, 40 seriously. At least 81 people were wounded at the airport, Belgium's health minister, Maggie De Block, said.  

Authorities released images of three possible suspects caught on camera at the Zaventem Airport. One is wearing white while the two others are each wearing one black glove and black clothing. Authorities believe they were carrying explosives in suitcases, Agence France-Presse reported. 

Belgian prosecutor Eric van der Sypt said authorities were searching for the man wearing white, and that the other two suspects are believed to have been killed in the blasts.

According to the Associated Press, sources told an Iraqi official that the Islamic State had been planning attacks targeting airports and train stations in Europe for months. The official told the AP that militants moved their plans to Brussels after Salah Abdeslam was arrested. The November attacks were the deadliest in Paris since World War II, killing 130 people.

Abdeslam was charged on Saturday in Belgium. Police said on Monday that another suspect may still be at large.

"It is too early to establish a link with the Paris attacks,” Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said during a press conference Tuesday evening.

Belgian Police

At least three Americans, Mormon missionaries from Utah, were hurt in Tuesday's attacks, the church said.

The mother of 20-year-old Joseph Empey told The Huffington Post that her son was "doing great."

“He’s got injuries and waiting to go into surgery, but he’s doing great, and we feel really awful for so many injured,” Amber Hempey, 41, said. “He happens to be a lucky one and we’re pretty grateful.” 

The bombs used to commit the attack at the Zaventem airport contained nails, the Gasthuisberg de Louvain hospital’s administrator told Belgian media. Thirteen of the attack victims are currently being treated at this hospital, five of whom are seriously injured. Most of them are suffering from fractured bones, burn wounds and cuts from metallic objects. 

Belgian authorities conducted several raids on Tuesday. They found an explosive device containing nails, an Islamic State flag and "chemical products" during a search in Schaerbeek, a town north of Brussels.

The airport was again put on lockdown after more explosives were found there on Tuesday evening, Belgian media reported. A Kalashnikov assault rifle and undetonated suicide belt had been found at the airport earlier in the day, Belgian media reported. Air traffic has been suspended through at least Wednesday. 

Public transportation was also shut down early Tuesday, but some stations reopened late afternoon

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as emergency personnel worked to treat the wounded and clear the areas.

"I helped carry out five dead, with their legs destroyed, as if the bomb came from a piece of luggage," said Alphonse Youla, an airport worker. 

ASSOCIATED PRESS

"It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed," one witness at the airport said, according to the AP. "There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere."

Another airport witness told Politico's Tara Palmieri that "it was an apocalypse."

Abdel MelloulIt was working near the subway station when the blasts went off. 

"It was terrible," he told De Standaard."I saw people who were completely burnt, there was a lot of blood."

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A wounded man is seen at the Zaventem Airport in Brussels, where several people were killed Tuesday morning. 

"Hate and extremism have hit in Brussels," Mayeur said. "This is an attack against the values of freedom and democracy, against the humanism that we value so much in Brussels."

Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever said it was "the darkest day in the history of our country since WWII."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said that the victims were "the absolute priority." He encouraged those seeking information about loved ones to call 1771, a crisis hotline. 

Belgium been cited as a hotbed for extremist activity, especially in the wake of the Paris attacks -- Abdeslam and his brother Brahim, who died after detonating a suicide bomb, were born and raised in Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels. According to CNN, there are more Belgians fighting in Syria than nationals from anywhere else in Western Europe.

Experts believe the area is vulnerable to radicalization in part because of the economic hardships immigrant communities often suffer. And as the Atlantic points out, conservative political figures in Belgium and France have further disenfranchised Muslims with xenophobic language. 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Activists of Pakistani civil society chant slogans during a rally to condemn the Brussels attack, in Multan, Pakistan.

World leaders expressed both condolences and concern.

"Today is a black day for #Europe," German justice minister Heiko Maas said. "The horrible events in #Brussels affect us all. We are steadfastly at the Belgians' side."

Officials in France and the U.K. increased security and called emergency meetings to discuss the situation. 

"The city is in shock, but it's heartwarming to see the solidarity among colleagues, parents of children, people helping with transportation," Brussels resident Hannie Van Den Bilcke said.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is on a state trip to Cuba, condemned the attacks and vowed to "defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.”

Police in New York, Los Angeles and D.C. said that they were ramping up security.

Soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms, one armed with a machine gun, were spotted near the security checkpoint at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. More Port Authority officers arrived too, patrolling the entrance to departures.

Jade Walker, Willa Frej and Christopher Mathias contributed reporting to this article. 

READ MORE:

For additional coverage in French, visit Le Huffington Post and their live blog; For coverage in German, visit HuffPost Germany; For coverage in Spanish, visit HuffPost Spain; For coverage in Arabic, visit HuffPost Arabi.  

Also on HuffPost

CONVERSATIONS