Europe News

Brussels Blasts: Three Explosions Hit Zaventem Airport, Metro

Dozens were killed and more than 200 injured after three explosions ripped through Belgium's Zaventem International Airport and Maalbeek metro station.

Two explosions at airport, one at metro station

At least 31 people killed, more than 200 injured

Prosecutor confirms CCTV image of 3 suspects; two ‘very likely’ suicide bombers, active manhunt for third

Brussels police raids uncover explosive device, IS flag

Reports that Islamic State has claimed responsibility


Dozens of people were killed and more than 200 were injured after two explosions ripped through Belgium Zaventem International Airport and a third occurred at Maalbeek metro station on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Belgian health minister Maggie De Block said on Belgian broadcaster VTM that 31 people died and 250 were injured. Eleven were killed at the airport and 20 at Maalbeek metro station. Grasswire earlier reported that 34 people had died.

The attacks came four days after the capture in Brussels of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. On Monday, Belgian prosecutors identified another suspect wanted in connection to the Paris attacks.

People waiting at Zaventem airport after the bombing
People waiting on the tarmac at Zaventem airport after the bombing

Zaventem airport explosions

Two explosions hit Belgium Zaventem International Airport. The first occurred at around 8 a.m. as people queued at check in, and the second shortly afterwards.

Eleven people died in the explosions. Earlier, AFP reported that Brussels fire brigade spokesperson Pierre Meys said at least 14 people had been killed at the airport, and Belgian broadcaster VRT reported at least 14 people were killed and 81 were injured.

Eye-witnesses reported hearing shots near to the American Airlines desk before the explosion, but this has not been confirmed.

The army carried out a controlled explosion on a suspicious object at the airport at around 12:45 p.m.

Three Paris-based Mormon missionaries from the United States were seriously injured in the airport explosion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement.

A CCTV image of suspects in the Brussels airport attack. Belgian police accidentally released the image.
A CCTV image of suspects in the Brussels airport attack.

Newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws published a still from security camera footage that shows three people suspected of participating in the airport assault. The newspaper said the still had been released accidentally by police.

The man wanted by Belgian police in connection with the Zaventem airport explosions
The man wanted by Belgian police in connection with the Zaventem airport explosions

Belgian police subsequently officially released the image and a wanted notice for the man wearing the hat and light-coloured jacket.

Federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw said he suspects that the other two men in the CCTV image were ‘very likely’ suicide bombers, and confirmed the active manhunt for the third man.



Maalbeek metro explosion

At 9:20 a.m., just over an hour after the airport explosions, a blast occurred at Maalbeek metro station, very close to the main European Union buildings.

The Mayor of Brussels Ivan Mayeur confirmed at least 20 died at Maalbeek, and at least 106 were injured. Earlier, Transport operator STIB-MIVB reported 55 people were injured. 10 of the injured were said to be in a critical condition.

Some people escaped from a train and escaped by walking through the tunnel between the Arts-Lois and Maalbeek metro stations.

After the Maalbeek explosion, a number of controlled explosions were carried out in central Brussels, Belgian media reports.

The response

Immediately after the attacks, the Belgian government raised the terror alert level countrywide to 4, the highest level.

The federal prosecutor said that raids were carried out across Belgium on Tuesday afternoon. A raid at an apartment in the Schaarbeek district of Brussels uncovered an explosive device containing nails, along with IS flag and other materials including chemicals.

According to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, a taxi driver led police to the apartment where the bomb was found. He told the paper the bombers wanted to take more luggage to the airport than would fit in his taxi.

According to SITE, a group which monitors islamic militants, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks through its Amaq news agency. New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi tweeted that the claim was also released on Amaq’s Telegram social network channel and then by Islamic State’s Telegram channels. This was later followed by a claim of responsibility on Islamic State’s Khilafa News channel.

Federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw said Belgian authorities were still verifying the IS claim of responsibility.

Van Leeuw said it was too early to make a direct connection between the attacks in Paris and Tuesday’s attacks.

The effects

Belgian authorities opened an emergency number: +32 2 506 711 and Facebook opened its Safety Check feature for the city.

The Belgium Crisis Center advised all Belgian residents to stay in their homes or at work, but this warning was lifted at 4 p.m Tuesday.

The Crisis Center said the airport would remain closed until noon on Wednesday at the earliest, with flights diverted to airports in France and Germany.

All metro, bus, tram and Eurostar train services were suspended immediately after the explosions. Belgian police said that Brussels Midi and Brussels North railway stations would reopen at 4 p.m. Tuesday, but Brussels Central would remain closed. The Crisis Center said Metro lines 2 and 6 would resume from 4 p.m.

All non-essential personnel were evacuated from the nuclear power plant in Tihange, according to the Belga news agency.

Contributors: @alynneadams @paull_nl @damienmarcus @amphotostudio


Join us in the newsroom?

Grasswire is an open newsroom. We collaborate online in an open Slack channel where we pitch, source, verify, write and edit stories.

0 / 1857