Belgium under lockdown, as Prime Minister warns people to “avoid any movement”
Brussel’s, the capital of Belgium, has been rocked by a series of deadly blasts this morning.
According to latest reports, 23 people have been killed and 55 injured after explosions at three locations around the city. 13 people have reportedly been killed in the blasts at the Brussels’ Zaventem airport and 10 others at a blast near an EU building in the city.
The casualty figure are expected to rise as fresh explosions have been reported and first responders are still engaged in relief and rescue operations. Belgian authorities closed the Airport and suspended train services.
The details are still scanty, but this could be seen as a retaliatory attacks in response to counter-terrorism raid being conducted by the Belgian Police. The timing coincides with the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the terrorist behind November’s Paris attacks that left 130 dead. Islamic State had taken responsibility for those attacks.
Belgian officials have confirmed that the attack on Brussels Airport was carried out by a suicide bomber. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports:
At least 20 have died from explosions which rocked the departure hall of Brussels’ airport during rush hour on Tuesday morning. Another explosion was reported at a metro station in Brussels near European Commission buildings, leading the institution to shut down operations for safety concerns.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says “what we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks,” at a press conference. “This is a dark moment for our nation. We need calm and solidarity,” he added.
Belgium’s prosecutor said he could not give a concrete figure at this time for the number of dead or wounded, but said that several are seriously injured in the hospitals.
15 people have now been reported killed after the Brussels Metro blast, reported public broadcaster RTBF quoting transport operator STIB.
“We are witnessing a sophisticated, well-organized and planned terrorist attack in which a cell possibly related to Najim Laachraoui, associated to [Salah] Abdeslam, might have been responsible. Their modus operandi of multiple inbound suicide commandos in combination with a geographical spread took away the flexibility in response of the Belgian authorities,” [Counter-terrorism expert, Tomas Olivier] said.
According to a France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, France has dispatched an extra 1,600 police at its borders after the reports of terrorist attacks in neighbouring Belgium. France wants to avoid the mistakes of November’s Paris attacks when one of the assailants succeeded in crossing over to Belgium after carrying out the attack.
These attacks come despite Belgium being on high alert after a shootout in the Brussels last week that led to the arrest of terrorist Salah Abdeslam. On Monday, the captured terrorist Abdeslam had told the court that further attacks were being planned in Brussels.
Despite official confirmation, sophistication and coordination of the attacks point to a well organised terrorist organisation, similar to Islamic State.
Belgium remains in a state of complete lockdown, as Belgium’s Prime Minister, Charles Michel, warned Belgians to “avoid any movement” for the time being.
Video: France 24 reports on Brussels Bomb Attacks
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[Cover image courtesy CNN]; [Writer is an Indian Journalist based in Europe]