In a suicide attack at the Brussels international airport, shots rang out as terrorists shouted in Arabic just before two very loud explosions were heard. Video and photos emerged on social media that showed black smoke rising from the Zaventem airport terminal building in Belgium. Passengers streamed away from the terminal, some bloodied and dazed. There were explosions on the Brussels urban rail system, as well. There are reports that at least 28 persons have perished.
All public transportation in the Belgian capital has been shut down, in much the same way as transport was shuttered in London in 2005 when terrorists struck the underground there. Belgian authorities are calling for citizens to remain in place. All three long-distance rail stations in Brussels are closed. The cross-channel tunnel from Belgium to England is also closed.
A couple kisses in relief outside the Maalbeek rail station while a wounded man begs for aid
The attack occurred just four days after Belgian and French security forces, with assistance from the United States, arrested a suspect wanted in the November 2015 attack in Paris that claimed 130 lives. Police had been on the look out for possible reprisals. The Paris attack has been linked to the Islamic State terror organization in the Middle East. The threat leve in Belgium has been set at 'maximum.' Soldiers have been deployed on the streets of Brussels.
Reporter Alex Rossi of Sky News heard the blasts at the airport. He said, "I could feel the building move. There was also dust and smoke as well... I went towards where the explosion came from and there were people coming out looking very dazed and shocked."
European security authorities are conferring on an emergency basis. Airport security has been bolstered in the Netherlands and Britain, including facilities at Amsterdam, Heathrow, Stansted, and London.
Video recorded on the scene showed shattered glass and ceiling tiles at the departure hall at Zavantem airport. The explosion was apparently triggered near the American Airlines check-in desk. A report from Belgian VRT media indicated that a blast also occurred on an underground train. An earlier broadcast suggest that 10 persons died there. Other reports said that the explosion was on a train going between the Schuman and Maelbeek stations, which are near installations of the European Union. A tweet by a local journalist showed the body of a person covered in blood at the Maelbeek metro station on the Rue de la Loi avenue which connects central Brussels with EU institutions. EU Commission staff are being told to stay put.
Some of the injured were given first aid on the sidewalk outside the stricken rail stations. A photograph taken of a blasted rail car showed a shattered human body and shreds of flesh hanging from inside the car.
Sirens are heard in the city as ambulances take the injured to hospitals. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted today, "We are following the situation minute by minute. Our priority concern is for the victims and those present in the airport.” He added, "For now, we are asking everyone to avoid all movement."
The United Kingdom is now on high alert. Prime Minister David Cameron expressed shock and promised aid to Belgium.
Pandemonium struck the Brussels airport following terrorist blasts
All flights at the airport have been cancelled until at least 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) on March 23. The airport has been evacuated and trains to the airport have been halted. Passengers were taken to a secure area.
So far, no organization is known to have taken credit for the incident. European airports have stringent screening procedures for passengers and baggage, that process normally takes place once passengers have check in and are headed towards their departure gates. There was nothing to prevent anyone from walking into Zaventem airport with heavy baggage. It was following a 2007 attack at the Glasgow Airport in Scotland that several airports increased security at entrances by altering the pick-up and drop-off zones to prevent private cars getting too close to terminal buildings.
European stock trading fell after the explosions, particularly in travel sector stocks including airlines and hotels, pulling the broader indices down from multi-week highs. Assets such as gold and government bonds rose in price.
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