Published On: Tue, Mar 22nd, 2016

At least 26 dead as blasts rock Brussels

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A series of apparently coordinated explosions ripped through Brussels airport and a city metro station today, killing at least 26 people in the latest attacks to target Europe.

Security was tightened across the jittery continent and transport links paralysed after the bombings that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel branded “blind, violent and cowardly”.

“This is a day of tragedy, a black day,” Michel said on national television.

Two blasts targeted the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00am (1130 IST), with prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw saying the assault likely involved at least one suicide bomber.

A third hit Maalbeek metro station near the European Union’s main buildings, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.

Pierre Meys, spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade, told AFP at least 11 people had been killed at the airport, while transport operator STIB said at least 15 others had died in the underground blast and 55 were wounded.

Witnesses said victims lay in pools of blood at the airport, their limbs blown off. There were chaotic scenes as passengers fled in panic, with a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building.

“A man shouted a few words in Arabic and then I heard a huge blast,” airport baggage security officer Alphonse Lyoura told AFP, his hands bloodied.

“A lot of people lost limbs. One man had lost both legs and there was a policeman with a totally mangled leg.”

The explosions triggered a transport shutdown in the city that is home to the headquarters of both the EU and NATO.

Flights were halted with metro, tram and bus services all suspended.

The bloodshed comes days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group — after four months on the run.

European leaders reacted with shock and solidarity, urging cooperation in the fight against terrorism on a continent that has been on high alert for months.

“The whole of Europe has been hit,” said French President Francois Hollande, whose country is still reeling from jihadist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November.

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