We awake this morning to news of what appears to be another coordinated, multiple target terror attack in Europe. This time the target was Brussels, Belgium. The initial reports focused on a pair of explosions and (unconfirmed) claims of gunfire at the check-in area of Zaventem airport. Initial casualty reports are sketchy as they always are in developing stories but local law enforcement officials are claiming that at least 13 are dead and more than 30 wounded at the airport. (NBC News)
At least two explosions rocked the check-in zone of Brussels Airport Tuesday, killing and wounding “several” people, an official said.
The blasts shook the departures hall in the Belgian capital shortly after 8 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET)…
Pictures from the airport showed bloodied victims, shattered glass and debris as well as smoke pouring from the terminal and passengers fleeing with their bags.
The attacks took place at the height of rush hour traffic, approximately 8:00 in the morning local time. Police are saying the airport attack was caused by at least one or possibly two suicide bombers. Shortly after that news broke, reports began to come in about a second set of explosions hitting the subway system in the city. (CNN)
Another blast at a subway station occurred in the suburb of Maelbeek, near the European quarter, where much of the European Union is based, according to CNN affiliate RTL. All metro stations in the city have been closed, according to the official Twitter account for the city’s transportation agency.
Federal police at the airport at Zaventem told CNN that “there has been an explosion” and “something has happened.”
In addition to Maelbeek, a separate (unconfirmed) report claimed that another explosion took place at the Schuman station near the E.U. headquarters, but given their close proximity, it may have been a single explosion somewhere between the two. Multiple deaths and causalities are reported around these rail terminals as well. The entire metro system is shut down and commuters are being told to shelter in place for the time being.
Obviously there are no firm reports of who was responsible for the attacks, but the immediate suspicions fall on ISIS supporters hiding in Europe. Additional information coming out of Belgium indicates that witnesses heard the attackers “shouting in Arabic” before the explosions at the airport and that three unused suicide belts were recovered. What’s clear in the early stages is that this wasn’t some sort of lone wolf situation. This is far more reminiscent of France, with several high traffic targets being hit simultaneously for maximum carnage and terror value. The bombs used at the airport in particular are being described as large enough to require a great degree of technical sophistication, so somebody with a skilled bomb maker had to be involved.
CNN phone interviews with Belgian security officials reflected a sense of frustration on their part, explaining that there are only so many individuals they can track at any given time. One of them, speaking off the record, seemed particularly dismayed by the fact that terrorists have access to high quality, fake passports and other documents. That fact, along with the open borders nature of the European Union, allows such criminals to move easily from country to country, trafficking weapons and explosives along with providing shelter for potential suicide bombing recruits.
There will no doubt be additional updates to this story later in the day, but this is looking like Paris all over again.