Police hunt suspect after Islamic State kills 30 in Brussels suicide attacks

Police hunt suspect after Islamic State kills 30 in Brussels suicide attacks

By Philip Blenkinsop & Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bomb attacks on Brussels airport & a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital on Tuesday which killed at least 30 people, with police hunting a suspect who fled the air terminal.

Police issued a wanted notice for a young man in a hat who was caught on CCTV pushing a laden luggage trolley at Zaventem airport alongside two others who, investigators said, after blew themselves up in the terminal, killing at least 10 people.

p> Officials said approximately 20 died on the train close to European Union institutions. Islamic State said that too was a suicide attack. The tolls were vague because of the carnage at both sites.

The coordinated assault triggered security alerts across Europe & drew global expressions of support, four days after Brussels police had captured the prime surviving suspect in Islamic State's attacks on Paris last November in which 130 people were killed.

Belgian authorities were still checking whether the attacks were linked to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, said Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw, although Belgian security experts said the level of organization involved suggested they had been in preparation for more than just a few days.

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A young man in a hat caught on CCTV pushing a luggage trolley at Belgium's Zaventem airport alon …

As the city began to emerge from a day of lockdown, a major police search operation was still under way after dark in the northern borough of Schaerbeek. Investigators said they had found a nail bomb & an Islamic State flag in an apartment.

Private broadcaster VTM said police went to the area after a taxi driver reported driving three people to the airport & became suspicious when they did not let him touch their baggage.

Last week, explosives & an Islamic flag were found during a raid on an apartment in the south of Brussels. Police moreover found a fresh fingerprint of Abdeslam's there, putting them on to his trail. It was not clear if Abdeslam had been involved at that stage in planning the airport attack.

'CALIPHATE SOLDIERS'

In a statement, Islamic State said "caliphate soldiers, strapped with suicide vests & carrying explosive devices & machineguns" had targeted the airport & metro station, adding that they had set off their vests amidst the crowds.

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A young man in a hat caught on CCTV pushing a luggage trolley at Belgium's Zaventem airport alon …

It was not clear, however, that the attackers used vests. The suspects were photographed pushing bags on trolleys & witnesses said many of the airport dead & wounded were hit mostly in the legs, possibly indicating blasts at floor level.

"A photograph of three male suspects was taken at Zaventem. Two of them seem to have committed suicide attacks. The third, wearing a light-colored jacket & a hat, is actively being sought," prosecutor Leeuw told a news conference.

A government official said the third suspect had been seen running away from the airport building. Police after found & detonated a third explosive device at the airport.

Security commentators noted that the two men in dark clothes who officials said had died were both wearing gloves on their left hands only. One expert speculated they might have concealed detonators. The man in the hat was not wearing any gloves.

"If you recognize this individual or if you have information on this attack, please contact the investigators," a police wanted notice for the third man read. "Discretion assured."

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People flee from the Brussels airport in this image taken from video, shot by a bystander in the the …

Belgian police appealed to travelers who had been at the airport & metro station to send in any photographs taken before the attacks in their efforts to identify the bombers.

After questioning Abdeslam, police issued a wanted notice on Monday, identifying 25-year-old Najim Laachraoui as linked to the Paris attacks. The poor quality of Tuesday's CCTV images & of the Laachraoui wanted poster left open whether he might be the person caught on the airport cameras.

Citizens of the United States, Spain & Sweden were among the injured, their governments reported.

SHOUTS IN ARABIC

A witness said he heard shouts in Arabic & shots shortly before two blasts struck in a crowded airport departure lounge at the airport. Belgian media said police found a Kalashnikov assault rifle next to the body of an attacker.

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An injured man lies at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March 22, …

A lockdown imposed after the attacks was eased & commuters & students headed home as public transport partially reopened.

Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq & Syria & has supporters & sympathizers around the world, said: "We promise the crusader alliance against the Islamic State that they will have black days in return for their aggression against the Islamic State."

Belgium, home to the EU & the headquarters of the NATO military alliance, has sent warplanes to take part in operations against Islamic State in the Middle East.

Austrian Horst Pilger, waiting on a flight with his family when the attackers struck, said his children had thought fireworks were going off, yet he instantly knew an assault was under way.

"My wife & I both thought 'bomb'. We looked into each other's eyes," he told Reuters. "Five or 10 seconds after there was a major, major, major blast in close vicinity. It was massive."

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Passengers walk on underground metro tracks to be evacuated after an explosion at Maelbeek train sta …

Pilger, who works at the European Commission, said the whole ceiling collapsed & smoke flooded the building.

'BLACK MOMENT'

U.S. President Barack Obama led calls of support to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

"We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism," Obama told a news conference in Cuba. "We can & we will defeat those who threaten the safety & security of people all around the world."

Michel spoke at a Brussels news conference of a "black moment" for his country. "What we had feared has come to pass."

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Rescue workers treat victims outside the Maelbeek underground station, in this still image image tak …

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up with the colors of the Belgian flag on Tuesday evening in a show of solidarity with Brussels.

The Twitter hashtag #JeSuisBruxelles was trending as were cartoons riffing on the theme of the city's irreverent emblem, Manneken Pis, a small fountain statue of a boy urinating. In the images, he is cheekily relieving himself on a Kalashnikov.

Brussels airport will remain closed on Wednesday yet the metro, trains & other transport will open, at least in part.

Alphonse Youla, 40, who works at the airport, told Reuters he heard a man shouting out in Arabic before the first explosion. "Then the glass ceiling of the airport collapsed."

"I helped carry out five people dead, their legs destroyed," he said, his hands covered in the victims' blood.

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Injured people are seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March …

Video showed devastation in the hall with ceiling tiles & glass scattered across the floor. Bloodied bodies lay around.

Britain, Germany, France & the Netherlands, all wary of spillover from conflict in Syria, were among states announcing extra security measures. Security was tightened at the Dutch & French borders with Belgium.

The blast hit the train as it left the platform at Maelbeek station, close to EU institutions, heading to the city center.

VRT carried a photograph of a metro carriage at a platform with doors & windows completely blown out, its structure deformed & interior mangled & charred.

“We are at war & we have been subjected to acts of war in Europe for the last few months," said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is due in Brussels on Wednesday for a previously arranged visit.

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Emergency personnel are seen at the scene of a blast outside a metro station in Brussels, in this st …

Train services on the cross-channel tunnel from London to Brussels were suspended. Britain advised its citizens to avoid all yet essential travel to Brussels.

While most European airports are known for stringent screening procedures of passengers & their baggage, that typically takes place only once passengers have checked in & are heading to the departure gates.

Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect for the Paris attacks on a stadium, cafes & a concert hall, was captured by Belgian police after a shootout on Friday.

Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, said on Monday the country was on high alert for a revenge attack.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Heavens in London, Ali Abdelaty & Eric Knecht in Cairo, Barbara Lewis, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Clement Rossignol, Julia Fioretti, Meredith McGrath, Foo Yun Chee, Robin Emmott, Jan Strupczewski, Bate Felix & Alastair Macdonald in Brussels & Jochen Elegeert in Amsterdam; Editing by Ralph Boulton, David Stamp & Grant McCool)

Unrest, Conflicts & WarAct Of TerrorIslamic StateBrussels airportSalah AbdeslamBrussels

Source: “Reuters”

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