Brussels: Around 35 people were killed and over 200 injured today in a series of explosions that ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train, the latest attacks claimed by Islamic State militant group to rock Europe.
Security was tightened across the jittery continent and transport links paralysed after the bombings that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel branded “blind, violent and cowardly”.
“This is a day of tragedy, a black day,” Michel said on national television. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Foreign Minister Didier Reynders warned that authorities fear suspects could still be at large in the city that is home to both NATO and the European Union.
The bloodshed came just four days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group — after four months on the run.
Belgian authorities had been on alert after Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted man, told investigators he had been planning an attack on Brussels.
Two blasts shattered the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00am (1330 IST), with prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw saying there was probably at least one suicide bomber.
A third hit a train at Maalbeek metro station in the heart of the city’s EU quarter, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.
Pierre Meys, spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade, told AFP at least 14 people had been killed at the airport, while Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur said “around 20” died in the underground blast. More than 200 people have been wounded, several critically.
Witnesses said victims lay in pools of blood at the airport, their limbs blown off. There were chaotic scenes as passengers fled in panic, with a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building.
“A man shouted a few words in Arabic and then I heard a huge blast,” airport baggage security officer Alphonse Lyoura told AFP, his hands bloodied.
“A lot of people lost limbs. One man had lost both legs and there was a policeman with a totally mangled leg.”
An army team later blew up a suspect package at the shuttered airport, with media reporting police had found an unexploded suicide vest.
At Maalbeek station, paramedics tended to commuters with bloodied faces as the streets filled with the wailing of sirens.
At least two Polish nationals and a Briton were confirmed among the injured in a city that is the EU’s symbolic capital.
The bombings triggered a transport shutdown, with flights halted and metro, tram and bus services all suspended.
Airports across Europe swiftly announced they were boosting security, including in London, Paris, and Frankfurt. Across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered extra counter-terror officers to crowded areas and train stations.