Daily Egyptian

At least 30 killed in Brussels terrorist attacks

By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, Deutsche Presse-Agentur

A series of terrorist attacks in the Belgian capital left at least 30 people dead and 230 injured on Tuesday, with the Islamic State extremist group claiming responsibility for the explosions at a subway station and Brussels’ international airport.

The Sunni jihadist organization, which controls a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria, said a group of its “soldiers” had attacked “carefully selected targets” in “crusader Belgium, which has not stopped attacking Islam and its people.”

Belgium is part of the U.S.-led coalition that has carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State.

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The extremist group threatened further attacks on members of the coalition in a statement posted on social media by Islamic State supporters and described by the U.S.-based monitoring group SITE Intel as a “formal communique.” It said that “what is coming will be harsher and bitterer.”

The group’s Amaq news agency said Islamic State fighters opened fire in the Brussels airport before detonating suicide belts. It did not say how many were involved.

The attack, which featured two consecutive explosions in the airport’s departure hall around 8 a.m., left at least 10 people dead and some 100 people injured, according to an initial estimate by Belgium’s crisis center.

One other suicide attacker targeted the Maelbeek metro station, according to Amaq. That explosion — which took place at around 9:15 a.m. as many commuters were heading to work — left at least 20 people dead and some 130 injured, the crisis center said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called the attacks “blind, violent and cowardly.”

Three days of national mourning are to be held in the European country beginning Wednesday, while investigators hunt for the perpetrators.

Police asked for help in identifying a man they suspect of carrying out the attack at the airport, which is located about 9 miles from the center of Brussels.

A video surveillance picture released by police shows a man wearing glasses, a black hat and white jacket. He is pushing an airport trolley carrying a black duffel bag.

Police raids are being carried out in connection with the investigation into the attacks, federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said.

U.S. President Barack Obama offered Michel support in the investigation, according to the White House.

Police spent much of Tuesday searching for weapons and suspects in the sprawling airport building, at one point neutralizing a “suspicious package.”

There were a total of three bombs used during the attack, but one did not explode, the governor of the Flemish Brabant province, Lodewijk De Witte, was quoted as saying by the Belga news agency.

The bombs contained nails, an official from a hospital treating some of the victims told Belga. Most of the 13 victims brought to the Gasthuisberg hospital in the city of Leuven had suffered fractures, burns and serious cuts, said its head, Marc Decramer.

Firefighters, meanwhile, were assessing how stable the airport building is, Belga reported.

Access to the airport was blocked after the attack, but pictures posted on social media showed a blown-out window front, debris that appeared to come from a collapsed roof and bloodied people inside and outside the airport.

The crisis center said there would be no incoming or outgoing flights until at least noon on Wednesday, while the chief executive of the airport spoke of it remaining closed until Thursday.

The entire public transport network in Brussels was also shut down for most of Tuesday, although it was coming back online by the evening. Train traffic to and from the Belgian capital was resuming too, while tunnels were being opened back to car traffic.

Military reinforcements have been deployed and controls are being carried out at Belgium’s borders, Michel said.

The country raised its threat alert level to 4, indicating a “serious and imminent” threat. The EU institutions and the NATO military alliance, which are both headquartered in Brussels, also increased their threat levels.

Belgium had already been on high alert since the arrest in Brussels last week of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks last November that left 130 dead.

Many of the perpetrators of those killings had links to the Belgian capital, but Van Leeuw said it was too early to establish a link between the attacks in Brussels and Paris.

“We are faced with a global threat,” French President Francois Hollande said in the French capital. “The war against terrorism must be conducted across Europe.”

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticized those urging border closures in response to the attacks, warning that “very often our enemies are already inside our cities.”

The European Union’s 28 national leaders said in a joint statement that they stand “united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism,” with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying that the attacks “touch us but do not scare us.”

The commission’s main building is about 550 yards from the Maelbeek station.

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(c)2016 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html

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