SproutNews: What Do We Now Know About The Brussels Attacks?
Sub-Editor's note: This article was originally shared with theSprout on 24th March 2016 and updates have been included in bold below that are correct as of today, Tuesday 29th March 2016.
On Tuesday 22nd of March, the world awoke to the news that Brussels had come under attack.
Reports were coming in from the country stating that two explosions had ripped through the city's international airport, Zaventem. An hour later, more reports claimed that an explosion had occurred at Maelbeek Metro Station, located near the EU buildings in the city. In this SproutNews Special report, I will attempt to report what happened on the fateful morning of the 22nd March 2016.
On Tuesday 22nd March 2016, two explosions ripped through the main departures hall at Brussels Zaventem International Airport. Both explosions occurred within 30 seconds of each other, with the first bomb going off at 06:58 GMT (07:58 Local time). An hour later, a further bomb exploded in Maelbeek metro station, which is located not far from the EU buildings in the city.
Who did it?
ISIS (or ISIL, as I prefer to call them) has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The infamous terror group were also behind the November 13th atrocities in Paris, which left 130 dead.
How many people were affected?
Current reports say that at least 31 people are dead, although Belgian authorities are warning that number may increase, and that at least 300 people were injured in the attacks.
The airport attack:
The two explosions in Zaventem airport occurred just moments apart and tore through the the check-in area at 07:58 local time. One eyewitness of the attacks said they heard shouts in Arabic just before the explosions. Officials have reported that the explosions took place at opposite ends of the hall, with some witnesses saying people ran from the site of the first explosion towards the exit, only to be caught by the second blast moments later, which occurred near the main entrance.
The attack killed at least 11 people and injured many more, with shocking videos showing the devastation both inside and outside of the terminal.
The Metro attack:
A little over an hour later, a second attack occurred at Maelbeek Metro Station, located in the city centre and close to several EU institutions within the city.
Reports say that a three-carriage train was leaving the station in the direction of Arts-Loi, a station a short distance down the line, when the bomb detonated. The bomb was located in the middle carriage of the train, which was travelling along the platform at the time.
One witness, Alexandre Brans told AP (Associated Press), "The Metro was leaving Maelbeek station when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the Metro."
Who carried out the attacks?
ISIL has claimed that they were behind the attacks. Security forces in Belgium have identified suspects who they believe carried out the attacks.
Khalid el-Bakraoui - el-Bakraoui has been identified by the Belgian federal prosecutor as the suicide bomber in the Metro attack. Using a false name, Bakaraoui had rented the flat in the Forest area of Brussels where police killed a gunman in a shoot-out the previous week.
Brahim el-Bakraoui - He was one of the suicide bombers who carried out the airport attacks. He was identified on CCTV captured inside the airport shortly before the attacks. Brahim was wearing gloves in the CCTV image, leading to speculation that he may have been concealing a detonator underneath them.
Najim Laachraoui - Early on, reports from the French and Belgian media suggested that another man in the image from the CCTV image was the wanted jihadist Najim Laachraoui - and this was confirmed on Friday by the Belgian federal prosecutor.
Earlier last week, Laachraoui was also named as an accomplice of Salah Abdeslam, one of the main suspects from the Paris attacks in November, who was arrested the previous week (see March 2016 Bulletin). Update: Indeed, on Friday, it was announced that Laachroui's DNA was found at Paris' Bataclan concert hall in November, where 90 people died in November's terror attack.
Second Metro Bomber - Sources within the police have told French and Belgian media that they are seeking a further suspect in relation to the Metro suicide bombing. A source told AFP news agency that a man with a large bag had been seen next to Khalid el-Bakraoui on CCTV footage in Maelbeek station. Update: Latest media reports say that police are still seeking a second suspect in relation to the Metro suicide bombing.
Unknown Airport Bomber - A third attacker, pictured wearing a hat in the CCTV image at Zaventem Airport, has been said to have fled the scene without detonating his explosive device. He is currently still at large and police have launched a manhunt to find him. Despite this, his identity still remains unknown. Update: There are mixed but still unconfirmed reports of his identity.
What is the situation in Brussels now?
Brussels' Zaventem airport closed after the attacks, with all flights cancelled or diverted elsewhere. Information on the airport's website said that the airport would stay closed until and including Sunday 27th March. Update: the airport is still shut until further notice, as of Tuesday 29th March 2016.
The entire Metro rail system within the city was closed after the attacks, mirroring the response that occurred after the London Bombings in 2005. It restarted later on Tuesday, and it ran a full service on Wednesday until 19:00 (local time), when it closed until Thursday morning. Update: Some metro lines are still only running from 07:00 to 19:00 and are not stopping at all stations.
Eurostar also suspended its high-speed rail services to and from Brussels immediately after the attacks, and ran a limited service thereafter. Update: It appears that full Eurostar services have resumed.
You can find more information about the latest travel disruption here.
The events that occurred on 22nd March in Brussels were an act of terror. My deepest condolences go to all those affected by these barbaric events. We must unite as one to defeat those behind this so that people will not have to suffer such events again.
Note: SproutNews is a series by a young Cardiffian - why not start your own by getting in touch with Tom or Sam@theSprout.co.uk and/or sharing your stuff here?
Want to win a Sprout T-shirt? Fill in theSprout Satisfaction Survey!
- Brussels Attacks: "Europe Is At War"
- SproutNews: March 2016 Bulletin
- A Tribute: The Paris Attacks
- A Tribute: Charlie Hebdo