BRUSSELS: Multiple explosions, at least one likely caused by a suicide bomber, rocked the Brussels airport and subway system Tuesday, killing at least 34 and prompting a lockdown of the Belgian capital and heightened security across Europe. The militant Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels, a news agency affiliated with the group said. Twenty people were killed in a blast on a Brussels metro train, 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. Two explosions targeted the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00am, 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.
The blasts come days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in November, after four months on the run.
There were chaotic scenes at the airport as passengers fled in panic, with a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building. The blasts smashed the windows of the departure hall and sent ceiling tiles shattering to the floor. Witnesses told Belga news agency there had been shots and shouts in Arabic at the airport before the blasts hit at the airport on the northwest outskirts of Brussels. Brussels Airport serves over 23 million passengers a year. Sunni Islam’s leading seat of learning, Al-Azhar, said Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels “violate the tolerant teachings of Islam,” and urged the international community to confront the “epidemic” of terrorism.
“Al-Azhar strongly condemns these terrorist attacks. These heinous crimes violate the tolerant teachings of Islam,” the Cairo-based Al-Azhar said in a statement.
“If the international community does not unite to confront this epidemic, the corrupt will not stop from committing heinous crimes against the innocent.”