News / Europe

    Belgian Police Hunt for Brussels Attack Suspect

    Photo released by Belgian federal police on demand of Federal prosecutor shows screengrab of airport CCTV camera showing suspects of this morning's attacks at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, March 22, 2016.
    Photo released by Belgian federal police on demand of Federal prosecutor shows screengrab of airport CCTV camera showing suspects of this morning's attacks at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem, March 22, 2016.
    Lisa BryantKatherine Gypson

    Belgian police issued a wanted notice for a suspect in the Brussels airport bombing, one of three explosions claimed by Islamic State that rocked the capital Tuesday, killing at least 34 people.

    The released photograph taken from closed-circuit television shows a man wearing a black hat, a light-colored jacket jacket, and sunglasses pushing an airport luggage cart alongside two other men who are believed to have been the suicide bombers.

    Authorities say the wanted man fled the airport.

    Police also say they found a bomb, chemicals, and an Islamic State flag during a raid on a house in a Brussels neighborhood while searching for the suspect.

    The detonations, including an attack at a metro station, injured 130 others and prompted Belgium to raise its terror alert to its maximum level.

    IS claims responsibility

    IS said its attackers opened fire inside the airport, before detonating explosive belts, while a suicide bomber attacked the Maalbeek metro station, according to the militant group's Amaq Agency news site.

    "This is a black moment in our country…everyone please be calm and show solidarity,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters.

    U.S. President Barack Obama, who was in Havana, said, "We will do whatever is necessary for our friend Belgium to bring those who are responsible to justice."  He said the U.S. stands in solidarity with Belgium "for the outrageous attacks against innocent people."

    Later he spoke by phone with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to offer his condolences on behalf of the American people. The White House says he reaffirmed the United States' "steadfast support" for Belgium and offered assistance investigating the attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

    At least nine Americans are among the wounded, including one Air Force service member. Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff on U.S. government buildings.

    Hundreds of Belgians carried candles and flowers to a nighttime vigil Tuesday night at the Place de la Bourse in central Brussels.

    European landmarks including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, Rome's Trevi Fountain and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates lit up with the colors of the Belgian flag.  

    WATCH: President Obama's statement on Brussels attacks

    Obama Condemns Belgium Attacksi
    X
    March 22, 2016 2:43 PM
    U.S. President Barack Obama reacted to the blasts during a speech in Havana, saying "We will do whatever is necessary for our friend Belgium to bring those who are responsible to justice." The President said the United States stands in solidarity with Belgium "for the outrageous attacks against innocent people."

    Airport attack

    Video footage showed people fleeing the Zaventem airport in Brussels, as a double explosion at about 8 am local time shattered the massive windows, leaving glass and tile scattered on the airport floor and smoke curling into the chilly morning air. Local media reported a third unexploded bomb had also been discovered.    News reports at least 11 people were killed in the airport blasts.

    A European security official said one or possibly two Kalashnikov rifles had been found at the site of the attack.

    A private security guard helps a wounded women outside the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels on March 22, 2016 after a blast at this station located near the EU institutions.
    A private security guard helps a wounded women outside the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels on March 22, 2016 after a blast at this station located near the EU institutions.

    Metro attack

    The Brussels mayor said at least 20 people were killed and 55 injured in an explosion just moments later at the at the Maelbeek subway station near the main headquarters of the European Union.  EU personnel have been told to either stay in their offices or at home.

    Local media described panic on the street and people emerging from the metro with burns and wounds.

    All flights in and out of the airport have been cancelled, and Brussels subway system has been shutdown as well. Authorities released surveillance images of three men who could be suspects.

    The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning to American citizens throughout Europe, warning them to use caution at sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and on transportation. It also advised taking particular care at large festivals and on religious holidays.

    Security boosted

    Authorities in Frankfurt, London, Paris, and the Netherlands have boosted security at their airports in response to the Brussels' bombing. There is so far no direct link to the November terrorist attacks in Paris also claimed by Islamic State.

    The White House said U.S. officials were in close contact with their Belgian counterparts.

    The explosions come just days after the arrest of key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels that have raised fears of revenge attacks to follow.

    Max Abrahms, a political science professor at Northeastern University who focuses on terrorism, said the blasts were likely part of operations that were planned prior to the arrest.

    "They were in the works and quite likely they were expedited in the immediate aftermath of the capture," he told VOA.  

    Crackdowns on terror groups often motivate terrorist cells to action, said Abrahms.

    "There’s an incentive for these kinds of terrorist groups to strike back immediately after an apparent loss to the organization in order to communicate that the group isn’t dead," he said.

    A police officer stands guard as people are evacuated from Brussels airport, after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016.
    A police officer stands guard as people are evacuated from Brussels airport, after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016.

    Link to Paris attacks?

    The attacks also bring to mind the November 13 bombings and shootings, claimed by Islamic State, that took place in several places around the French capital.

    A connection between the attacks and the arrest of Salah Abdeslam could be "extraordinarily significant," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "Literally a watershed for terrorism and counter-terrorism in Europe. It represents the first time you’ve had a jihadist network carry out a major attack – the Paris attack – and then carry out a major follow-along attack," he told VOA.

    A European diplomatic official told VOA, "We have to get used to it. We’ve been though this two times last year.”

    The official also said recent data suggests there are possibly more than 3,000 people involved in terror networks in Europe and that follow-on attacks or copy-cat attacks are a continuing concern, though other officials say they have seen nothing to indicate anything is imminent.

    VOA's National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin and Richard Green contributed to this report

    PHOTO BLOG:  Brussels terror attacks

    • People react as they walk away from Brussels airport after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016.
    • People leave the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016.
    • Broken windows seen at the scene of explosions at Zaventem, March 22, 2016.
    • People leave the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels, March 22, 2016.
    • People react as they walk away from Brussels airport after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2016.
    • Ambulances arrive to the scene at Brussels airport, after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016.
    • In this image made from video, emergency rescue workers stretcher an unidentified person at the site of an explosion at a metro station in Brussels, March 22, 2016.
    • A victim receives first aid by rescuers, on March 22, 2016 near Maalbeek metro station in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries.
    • Passengers evacuating the Brussels Airport of Zaventem, after a string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station, killing at least 21 people, as Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level, March 22, 2016
    • Policemen speak at a security perimeter near Maalbeek metro station, on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries.
    • A woman is evacuated in an ambulance by emergency services after a explosion in a main metro station in Brussels, March 22, 2016.
    • Policemen stand guard at the entrance of a security perimeter set near Maalbeek metro station, on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries.
    • People comfort each other after being evacuated from Brussels airport, after explosions rocked the facility in Brussels, March 22, 2016.
    • Firefighters arrive at the scene near Maalbeek metro station, on March 22, 2016 in Brussels, after a blast at this station near the EU institutions caused deaths and injuries.
    • A private security guard helps a wounded women outside the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels on March 22, 2016 after a blast at this station located near the EU institutions.
    • People leave candles and flowers in tribute to victims of triple bomb attacks in front of the stock exchange building in the city center of Brussels on March 22, 2016.
    • Belgium Attacks
    • Flowers, a candle and a letter with the words 'Defy Terror' - ' Preserve Freedom' are placed in front of the Belgian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, March 22, 2016 after the attacks in Brussels.

     

    Also see: VOA Storify on Belgium explosions


    Katherine Gypson

    Katherine Gypson is a reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C.  Prior to joining VOA in 2013, Katherine produced documentary and public affairs programming in Afghanistan, Tunisia and Turkey. She also produced and co-wrote a 12-episode road-trip series for Pakistani television exploring the United States during the 2012 presidential election. She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from American University. Follow her @kgyp

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Confused
    March 23, 2016 9:16 AM
    Too many words of condemnation have been pronounced by European political leaders to terrorists. But their actions have proven nothing but terrorist expansion in all parts of Europe. The terrorists know and convinced that European leaders and peoples are now too soft and timid for a real fight. They no longer have God on their side. Their god is bodily pleasure and sensuality.

    by: Observer
    March 23, 2016 8:43 AM
    This evil kind of attack has happened "too many times" in Europe recently. It is high time Europeans wake up and get up from their moral and spiritual slumber and peform your mission or call. So sorry if Europeans no longer have any mission or sense of mission for the world.

    In the middle ages missionaries braved the tumultuous oceans to bring the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God to Asian and African nations. Now, this mission virtually died. The moral and spiritual vacuum in Europe is now being filled with morality and spirituality of other religions. Sorry to say that you have left the living and true God, and are looking for other gods. Who is going to protect you now?

    by: Norma from: Belgium
    March 22, 2016 8:14 PM
    All Arabs, be a Muslim immigrant or non Muslims refugee, must be kicked out of Europe.

    by: Anonymous
    March 22, 2016 4:41 PM
    The price for Political Correctness is too high. Time to start mass deportations of Muslim suspects and strip them of naturalization rights. If we don't do it now, we will live to regret it. Take back America.

    by: annymous from: usa
    March 22, 2016 4:11 PM
    massive deportation of Muslim from Europe and USA is a practical solution for terror problem

    by: Ali
    March 22, 2016 10:20 AM
    Turkey is responsible largely for the terrorist activities in Europe. They let ISIS members to use their border freely. There is even evidence shows Turkey help ISIS gangs. When Syrian Kurds try to close the ISIS pathway to Turkey and Europe, Turkey reacts strongly to attack democratic forces and help ISIS terrorist to keep the border open.

    Why Europe and the US play so dumb when it comes to Turkey, I don't know. For all the crises Turkey caused to the region, including the game of migration, it is never criticised properly. Surprisingly, It gets rewards of billions of dollars. It is time for Europe to stop passive and cautious language in addressing Turkey's responsibilities and crimes.

    by: Plain and simple
    March 22, 2016 10:08 AM
    US must not support any armed group against any government in the world. Because, people who take up arms to fight their own country are nothing but terrorists. They must not be supported and encouraged. But, US is supporting ruthless armed groups under the name of 'moderate rebels' in Syria. The danger is...deadly Terrorist groups may pretend to be moderate rebels in order to get help from US to fight US. So, any group that takes up arms to achieve a political objective must be branded as terrorist group. But, US is not doing so in Syria. US is supporting armed groups to topple Assad. This way, US is only creating more terrorists and jihadists. Because, all armed groups in Syria are nothing but terrorist groups in nature.
    In Response

    by: Don't forget
    March 22, 2016 2:37 PM
    Don't forget the war was originally the people of Syria against Assad because of the war crimes he has committed against the nation of Syria. The only reason assad hasn't been prosecuted by the International Criminal Court is because Syria isn't a member state of the ICC. Therefore it would have to go before the Security Council, which of course Russia and China would oppose, regardless of crimes committed.

    Sad these people have had a tyrant in charge of their country for years, whom uses terror on his own people. Of course there is groups that have come in from the outside to try and steal Syria during this war between the people of Syria and Assad. Assad will not allow himself to be prosecuted by the people of Syria, and will fight to the end, regardless of whatever he has to do, even if it means destroying the entire country.
    In Response

    by: Ali
    March 22, 2016 10:39 AM
    Actually, it is not that difficult to recognize which groups are democratic and which ones are terrorist. If the huge intelligence agencies belong to the US and Europe can't distinguish that, what is the purpose of their existence. The problem is that the US and Europe hesitate and are very slow to help the democratic forces against the terrorist and dictators. At times, they step on their principles and values to not upset dictators.

    by: annymous from: usa
    March 22, 2016 8:46 AM
    when French and other European country figure out all the people involved in Paris terrorist attack ,there is another attack. and cycle will never end as long we have liberal leader such Obama and the French president , many people are going to lose their lives , another genocide could happen in future.

    by: Anonymous
    March 22, 2016 8:12 AM
    On her way to work one morning Down the path alongside the lake A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew "Oh well," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you" "

    Take me in oh tender woman Take me in, for heaven's sake Take me in oh tender woman, " sighed the snake She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk

    Now she clutched him to her bosom, "You're so beautiful," she cried "But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died" Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite.

    "I saved you," cried that woman "And you've bit me even, why? You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die" "Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin "You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in "Take me in, oh tender woman Take me in, for heaven's sake Take me in oh tender woman, " sighed the snake

    by: Robert
    March 22, 2016 7:43 AM
    Muslim terrorists like ISIL, Bashar Asad, Hamas, Hezbollah Lebanon, and the Islamic Government of Iran which support all of them, are not committed of any moral and human rights and international laws. They destroy holy places of other religions. They kill innocent people just because they are not Muslims. Free nations must fight these ruthless terrorists and defeat them.
    In Response

    by: sara from: Spain
    March 22, 2016 4:48 PM
    Always There are a cause and effect, maybe at first glance, there are Sunni Arab extremists who committed these attacks but as far as I know, all this bloody bombings, started with the revolution of Iran in 1979, which extremists Shiite government tried to send their revolution to other countries, after that time, Sunni Arab extremists groups established to stop the Shiite spreading, and unfortunately until now, this battle converted to a bloody terrorist attacks not only between them but also in all over the world.
    In Response

    by: Solaris
    March 22, 2016 11:04 AM
    You seem quite influenced by western propaganda, Europe knows that Sunni Arab extremists are behind the terror attacks and not Shiite Iran or Assad meanwhile you spend Arab's money in the US and make comment about terrorism, you spend their money I mean terrorist's money and that is why you accuse someone else for their mischief. You and the other lackeys of the Arabs in the US will be not be able to terrorize the civilized world and destroy the European cultural heritage.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 22, 2016 9:22 AM
    Hey Robert _ I'm not criticizing your analogy, but the terrorists that are attacking everybody in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and the world now are all Sunni Muslim? .. You have been confused by the US arming and training tens of thousands of foreign Sunni Muslim extremists, fanatics and insane in Turkey and Jordan to wage Jihad war on the Shia Muslim led government of Assad and Syria to replace it with an unelected handpick Sunni Muslim government?

    The US calls them rebels? .. But the Russians warned the US, that when their armed and trained crazy rebels return to their home countries, they'll become terrorists? .. And this is what happens when those tens of thousands of US armed and trained Sunni Muslim crazy rebels return home and become terrorists? .. Just like Russia warned they would?

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