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Explosions at Airport and Subway Leave 'Numerous' Dead in Brussels
A series of deadly terrorist attacks struck Brussels on Tuesday, with two explosions at the city's main international airport, and a third in a subway station at the heart of the city.
According to news agencies, 13 people were killed at the airport, and 15 in the subway bombing, while 30 others were wounded. Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said there were "numerous" dead. "We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened," he said. At least one of the two explosions at the airport appeared to have been set off by a suicide bomber, officials said.
The attacks, a vivid illustration of the continued threat to Europe, occurred four days after the capture on Friday of Europe's most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam. Mr. Abdeslam is believed to be the sole survivor of the 10 men who were directly involved in the attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris on Nov. 13.
Mr. Michel issued an extraordinary appeal to the population to "avoid all movement," as the authorities braced for possible further attacks.
The French government ordered 1,600 extra police officers to patrol the nation's borders, including at train stations, airports and ports. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called an emergency meeting of ministers.
The attacks put the Belgian capital in a state of virtual lockdown. All flights were canceled for the day. All subway, tram and bus travel was shut down. Eurostar canceled its trains connecting Brussels with Paris and London. Thalys, which runs high-speed trains linking dozens of cities in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, suspended service. Cellphone lines were jammed as panicked travelers and Belgians tried to make calls.
The events on Tuesday began with a pair of explosions at a departure hall at Brussels Airport, in the town of Zaventem, about seven miles northeast of the city center, just before 8 a.m.
"We were going to check in around 7:30 a.m.," said one traveler, Ilaria Ruggiano. "There were seven of us. We were a bit late. We heard a big noise and saw a big flash. My mother went to the floor — she was hit. I just dropped my luggage and went to the floor. A kid came out, bleeding a lot. I tried to help him with a tissue, but it was not enough. There were two bombs."
Another passenger, Jérôme Delanois, said he was at an Internet cafe near the Delta Air Lines counter when he heard a thunderous noise. "There were two explosions — one big one and one little one," he said. "The first one blew all the walls and everything. There were burning flames. The first one was bigger. It blew out all the windows."
Belinda How, a traveler from Malaysia who was in Brussels for a vacation, said she had been lining up to check in for an Etihad Airways flight when she heard the blast. "I was the last passenger queuing up," she said. "I was very close to the first blast. Everybody was screaming."
She added: "I said to my son — he is a Down syndrome special-needs child — 'You have to run.' He said, 'My leg hurts.' I think he was panicked. I left my luggage, dragged him and ran. Before I ran out, there was another bomb."
Alan Merbaum, who had flown in from Washington, said he had narrowly avoided the blast.
"I heard what sounded like a thud a minute or so before 8 a.m.," he said. "It sounded like it could have been something dropped off the back of a truck. Ten to 20 seconds later, I heard a loud explosion and I immediately knew what it was. I saw smoke coming out of the front entrance of the airport."
[Source: By Alissa J. Rubin, Aurelien Breeden and Anita Raghavan, The New York Times, Brussels, 22Mar16]
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|This document has been published on 22Mar16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|