A series of terrorist attacks on Brussels’ airport and subway system today left more than 30 dead, the European Union’s capital city on lockdown, and world leaders mourning as they ordered increased security. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
The number of dead stands at 34: at least 20 were killed in a subway blast in the district of Maalbeek, and at least 14 were killed in two explosions at Brussels Airport, at least one of which was a suicide bombing, according to CNN reporting. Belgian media reports that as many as 170 were injured in the attacks.
“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and now that has happened,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, calling for calm and solidarity in a “tragic moment.” Brussels residents were told to “avoid all movement.”
The attacks come just days after the world’s most wanted terrorist suspect was captured in Belgium. Salah Abdeslam, suspected in the Paris terror attacks that killed 130, was arrested after a gun battle Friday along with four other suspects. Michel said there was no information tying the attacks to the arrest but noted the timing.
Frédéric Van Leeuw, a Belgian law enforcement official, said additional border security and police had been mobilized and the country’s threat level was at its highest. The New York Police Department is “increasing security around the city,” according to Washington Post reporting.
President Obama was briefed on the attacks on his trip to Cuba.
World leaders responded in the wake of the attack, with UK Prime Minister David Cameron calling a meeting of his country’s special security team, dubbed Cobra and increasing police at “ports, airports, Tube stations and international railway stations.”
I have just spoken to the Belgian PM and offered our sympathies and condolences. We must stand with Belgium at this very difficult time.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) March 22, 2016
“The whole of Europe has been hit,” said French President Francoise Hollande, calling for increased intelligence sharing across the European Union to prevent future attacks.
The scene inside the airport was bloody and frantic, according to New York Times reporting:
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.”
Facebook activated its Safety Check feature to allow those in Brussels to report on their well-being.
Social media captured the scene on the ground:
— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) March 22, 2016
إخلاء مطار بروكسل ووقوع إصابات بعد انفجارين في صالة المغادرة 😳 pic.twitter.com/2NMCsR0gBv
— mona.omar (@mona_omar_) March 22, 2016