Brussels, the seat of the European Union, was hit this morning (March 22) by three deadly explosions that struck the airport and metro system during the rush hour, killing at least 31 people and wounding more than 200. ISIL, the jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria, has claimed responsibility through the group’s news agency.
The city is on lockdown, with all buses, trams, and metro lines halted. The airport has been shut down and all incoming flights diverted. People are being advised not to move around the city. International travel to Brussels, including Eurostar trains, has been suspended. Brussels has been placed on the highest level of terror alert. People were asked not to move around the city, with the Belgian prime minister saying the threat level was “serious.”
The attacks come just days after one of the main suspects in the terrorist attacks in Paris, in November 2015, was arrested in Brussels. Salah Abdeslam was captured in the city on Friday (March 18). Several of the suspects in the November attacks, which killed 130 people, were based in Brussels.
The Belgian capital has struggled since the Paris attacks. It was criticized for failing to to locate the terror suspects for more than three months after the attacks, despite being on high alert. On New Year’s Eve, Brussels cancelled its fireworks, citing terror threats.
The Belgian police have released a warrant and an image of a man wanted in connection with the bombings at the airport.
Two explosions hit Brussels airport, Zaventem, around 8am local time. The explosions were located in the departure hall, and left at least 13 dead, according to local media. Videos showed smoke rising from the building, and photos have begun to emerge of wounded passengers leaving the building. The airport began an immediate evacuation.
As the news of the airport blasts was being released, local news agencies reported an explosion at Maelbeek metro station, close to the European Union buildings. The metro operator later confirmed that 15 people died and at least 55 were wounded at the station.
The station is close to key administrative buildings of the European Union, and the blast could be heard by those who had arrived at work—some from the metro—the New York Times reported.
Later in the morning, reports emerged of smaller explosions heard at the metro station. These were likely controlled explosions of suspicious packages, according to local media.
A video of people being evacuated from the Maelbeek station was also shared by freelance journalist Evan Lamos:
Phone networks were becoming saturated, according to Crisis Center Belgium. Those wishing to contact people were encouraged to use text messages and online platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook. Several crisis phone lines are open, however:
The Brussels emergency phone number, 1771, is available, but Crisis Center Belgium asked people to use it only for the most urgent calls:
Facebook also launched its Safety Check service in the hours after the attack.
Belgium will enter three days of national mourning, beginning today.