The Brussels Attacks

Two explosions were reported at the departure hall at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, Belgium, on Tuesday. The airport evacuated the building amid reports of several fatalities. Credit: Ketevan Kardava, via Associated Press
Two explosions were reported at the departure hall at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, Belgium, on Tuesday. The airport evacuated the building amid reports of several fatalities.
Credit: Ketevan Kardava, via Associated Press

• What happened?

Two explosions, at least one caused by a suicide bomber, in the departure hall at Brussels Airport killed some 10 people just before 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday, or 3 a.m. Eastern time.

About an hour later, an explosion at the Maelbeek subway station in central Brussels, not far from the European Union’s core institutions, killed about 20 people.

More than 230 others were wounded.

• Was the Islamic State behind it?

Eight hours after the explosions, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic State issued a bulletin claiming responsibility, calling Belgium “a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State.”

Officials noted the timing of the attacks on Tuesday, just days after the arrest of the main surviving suspect in the assaults in and around Paris last year that killed 130 people.

“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened,” said the prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel.

The suspect arrested on Friday, Salah Abdeslam, is believed to be the sole survivor of the 10 men who were directly involved in the Paris attacks on Nov. 13.

• Where is the investigation heading?

The Belgian authorities released a photo of three men seen at the airport who they said were suspects and sought the public’s help in identifying one of them. The two others were “probably” suicide bombers, the police said.

In addition, an explosive device, “chemical products” and an Islamic State flag were found in police raids in the Schaebeek district of Brussels.

• Why Brussels?

In addition to being the seat of European Union government and the capital of Belgium, Brussels has become a focus of counterterrorism investigations, notably since the Paris attacks.

Officials have also been concentrating on a particular Brussels neighborhood in an investigation of an Islamic State recruitment network.

Brussels has a high proportion of citizens who travel to Iraq, insular Muslim communities believed to have helped shield jihadists, and security services that have had problems with their counterterrorism operations.

• What is Brussels like now?

The city, with a population of about one million, has been largely shut down. The Belgian prime minister asked residents to “avoid all movement” as the authorities braced for the possibility of additional violence.

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SOURCE: The N.Y. Times – Victoria Shannon