22-09-2019 07:51 PM Jerusalem Timing

Around 35 Killed in Brussels Attacks Claimed by ISIL (Updated)

Around 35 Killed in Brussels Attacks Claimed by ISIL (Updated)

A series of explosions claimed by the ISIL group ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train Tuesday, killing around 35 people in the latest attacks to bring bloody carnage to the heart of Europe.

Brussels blasts

A series of explosions claimed by the ISIL group ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train Tuesday, killing around 35 people in the latest attacks to bring bloody carnage to the heart of Europe.

Two huge blasts, at least one of which prosecutors said was likely caused by a suicide bomber, rocked the check-in hall at Zaventem Airport, strewing the scene with blood and mangled bodies and sending hundreds of terrified travelers fleeing in terror.

The fact that extremists were able to hit high-profile targets in Brussels, Europe's symbolic capital, just months after ISIL group militants killed 130 people in Paris, will raise fresh questions about the continent's ability to cope with the terror threat.

More than 200 people were wounded in Tuesday's bloodshed, which came just four days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam -- the prime suspect in the Paris attacks -- after four months on the run.

Security was tightened across the jittery continent and transport links paralyzed 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.
Two blasts targeted the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00am (0700 GMT), with prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw saying the assault likely involved at least one suicide bomber.

A third hit Maalbeek metro station near the European Union's main buildings, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.

Pierre Meys, spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade, told AFP at least 11 people had been killed at the airport, while transport operator STIB said at least 15 others had died in the underground blast and 55 were wounded.

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.

The explosions triggered a transport shutdown in the city that is home to the headquarters of both the EU and NATO. Flights were halted with metro, tram and bus services all suspended.

The bloodshed comes days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam -- the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks claimed by the Takfiri group ISIL -- after four months on the run.

European leaders reacted with shock and solidarity, urging cooperation in the fight against terrorism on a continent that has been on high alert for months.

"The whole of Europe has been hit," said French President Francois Hollande, whose country is still reeling from Takfiri attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November.

Airports across Europe swiftly announced they were boosting security, including in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

Major international train lines into Brussels were suspended, while security was also beefed up at Belgium's nuclear plants and at EU buildings in the French city of Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon announced that Belgium's terror threat had been raised from three to a maximum of four, and the country's national security council was due to meet.

Residents were told to "stay where you are", while Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo urged people to avoid making calls to stop the city's mobile networks getting saturated, and to communicate with online messages instead.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven branded the blasts an "attack against democratic Europe".

British premier David Cameron tweeted that his country would do "everything we can to help," and announced that Britain's COBRA security committee would meet Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the blasts "show once more that terrorism knows no borders and threatens people all over the world", according to a Kremlin statement.

"The fight against this evil requires vital international cooperation," he added.