Two loud explosions hit Brussels Airport at around 8 a.m. on Tuesday (UTC +1), with witnesses saying they “felt the shockwaves” that are said to have come from the American Airlines check-in desk. Smoke billowed from the building as people were evacuated immediately after the blasts.
At least 11 were killed, and around 30 were injured in the blasts. Meanwhile, Brussels Airport is now on lockdown, with all flights diverted and all rail traffic suspended. The blasts are reported to be a suicide attack, according to Brussels’ state broadcaster.
The Belgian government has put the whole country on the highest alert level in the wake of the explosions. There are reports of shots being fired and shouts in Arabic heard before the explosions.
The incident follows four days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect of the Paris jihadist attacks that occurred on November 13, 2015, which had the Belgian capital on high alert. He was suspected of planning an attack in Brussels and is currently being held in Bruges.
Brussels airport is located in Zeventem, which is 11 kilometers (7 miles) northeast of Brussels and served more than 23 million passengers in 2015.
Under an hour after the airport bombings, reports came in of another series of blasts in the Brussels Maalbeek metro station. All metro stations in the city have now been closed, according to Brussels’ transport authority.
The Maalbeek metro station is near a number of important EU buildings such as the Berlaymont building that houses the EU Commission and the Council of the European Union.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks. According to a bulletin by Amaq, a news agency affiliated with ISIS:
“Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State.
Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maelbeek metro station.”
More explosions were reported in Kunst-Wet and Schuman stations after the blasts in Maalbeek station, but they were confirmed to be false reports.
Meanwhile, Parliament has been closed and all EU buildings in Brussels are now on lockdown.
Residents, hotels, and other establishments in Brussels are now providing free shelter for those affected by the blasts.
Public transport has been restarted, albeit with much tighter security. Brussels Airport has cancelled all arriving and departing flights for March 23.
The national Crisis Center has issued a bulletin of its own with instructions for people in Brussels on what to do regarding the blasts.
[Image via Tinchas Kuperstein]