Four days after the main fugitive in the Paris terrorist attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was taken into custody in Belgium, terrorists have attacked Brussels International airport and a metro station in the country's capital.
Zaventem, Brussels' airport, was attacked first, with two explosions hitting the airport leaving at least 14 people dead and injuring at least 81 more. The explosions likely hit either end of the check-in area, with one being relatively close to the airport's entrance. The airport sees more than 23 million passengers per year. Authorities suspect a suicide bomber was responsible for at least one of the blasts. One of the region's public news agency's, VRT, reported that an assault rifle was found next to the body of one of the suspected attackers. The Belga news agency reported that the terrorist fired off shots and was shouting shortly before the blasts hit. Another private broadcaster, VTM, reported that an unexploded bomb was also located by authorities, and will be safely detonated.
One traveller spoke with BFM television, a station based in France, saying, "it was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed. There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere. We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene."
An hour later, at 8:00 GMT, a third blast struck the Maelbeek metro station, killing at least 20 people, and injuring at least 106 others. The explosion hit the middle carriage as the train began to leave the station. Maelbeek station is close to European Union officers. All employees have been told to stay home, and all meetings have been cancelled.
In response to the attacks, all flights have been diverted, all public transit in Brussels has been closed, and the Eurostar train system has been closed. An employee with a college in the city, Ryan McGhee, said that, "the entire city is on lockdown." While "people are calm at the moment" he said that "the atmosphere is tense". Belgium has raised its terrorism threat level to its highest. Reports are currently estimating the number of people dead at 34, with an additional 170 people injured.
Belgium's Prime Minister, Charles Michel, spoke about the attacks, telling reporters that "this is a day of tragedy, a black day". He called on all citizens to "show calmness and solidarity" in the face of such "blind, violent, and cowardly" actions. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council also spoke out, saying that "these attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence".
Countries across Europe have responded to the attacks, by increasing security at their own airports and transit systems. The UK Foreign Office has urged British nationals currently in Belgium to avoid crowded areas, and France held an emergency cabinet meeting. Francois Hollande, France's President, said that "the terrorists have struck Belgium, but it is Europe that was targeted. And it is the whole world that is concerned with this".
While no group has come forward to claim responsibility, the attacks are believed to be in retaliation for the capture of Salah Abdeslam. Jan Jambon, the Interior Minister of Belgium, said that "we know that stopping one cell can...push others into action. We are aware of it in this case."
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has set up a helpline for anyone in the UK worried about the safety of friends or family members who may currently be in Belgium. The number is 0207 008 0000. People still in the country have been asked to communicate through text message or social media, rather than direct calls, because the mobile network in the region has become overloaded. As with the attacks in Paris last year, Facebook has enabled their "security check" button for people in Brussels to let friends and family members know they are safe.