More than 34 people were killed and about 170 wounded ,many in critical condition after attackers launched twin assaults in Belgium’s capital Brussels with bombs ripping through the airport and the underground metro line.
Belgian’s federal prosecutor told state media one of the explosions at Zaventem airport was “probably” a suicide attack.
Police were going door-to-door throughout Brussels searching for suspects or others planning attacks. The interior minister said 600 additional police were deployed.
“This is an attack against our values, our freedom, and our democracy,” Brussels Mayor Ivan Mayeur said at a press conference. “We won’t let anyone attack our values in a cowardly way.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibilty.
The explosions struck the heart of European officialdom where NATO headquarters is based, along with the European Parliament and European Commission.
Footage from the airport – the country’s largest – showed people running from the terminal building as plumes of smoke rose to the sky. Fourteen people were killed and more than 90 wounded with the casualty toll steadily rising on Tuesday.
All metro lines were shut down after the attacks. Victims were seen fleeing with blood-splattered faces at the central Maelbeek station. At least 20 people were killed in the underground train blasts.
The interior ministry raised the country’s terrorism alert to the highest level after the blasts and Brussels’ crisis centre told people: “Stay where you are”.
Dr Marc Decramer, head of the Gasthuisberg Leuven university hospital, told local media that some people suffered wounds from flying nails.
“At this moment we are treating 11 victims, most of them are severely injured. We are treating them for fractures, burns and deep lacerations. These lacerations are the result of glass shards from the explosions, and nails placed inside the bombs,” Decramer said.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called for unity as details were still emerging about the attacks.
“We are facing a difficult, challenging time and we should face up to this challenge by being united,” he said. “What we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks.”
Early reports from witnesses said they heard gunshots fired at the airport. Belgian’s federal prosecutor confirmed a Kalashnikov assault rifle was found there.
The country had been on high alert since the arrest in Brussels last week of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in last November’s Paris attacks that left 130 people dead.
Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon said on Monday the country was aware of the risk of a possible revenge attack following the capture of the 26-year-old.
Governments in Europe and beyond quickly responded to the Brussels attacks, calling emergency national security meetings and stepping up controls at airports and other sensitive sites.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country would increase border patrols at the Dutch-Belgian borders and boost security.
France also announced increased security measures. President Francois Hollande said: “We are faced with a global threat … The war against terrorism must be conducted across Europe.”
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies