The Latest on explosions at Brussels airport and metro station (all times local).
LOCATIONS IN BRUSSELS TERROR ATTACKS
The younger brother of suspected Brussels suicide bomber Najim Laachraoui said Thursday evening he is sad and overwhelmed over what his sibling had done.
The 20-year-old Mourad Laachraoui told reporters that “I feel bad, that’s all — scared and saddened.” He said the family had no contact with Najim since he left for Syria in 2013.
Najim Laachraoui is also suspected of having made bombs used in the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.
His brother described him as “a nice boy— especially intelligent,” who read a lot and practiced the martial art of taekwondo for a while like he does. He described their family as a practicing Muslim household, but said he couldn’t say what put his brother on the path to violent extremism.
He said that “I’m no psychologist, no idea.”
He said the family informed Belgian police when his brother called them about leaving for Syria. He searched in vain for his brother on Facebook, he said, to try to persuade him to come home.
He said the family has not yet been officially informed of Najim Laachraoui’s death as one of the three suspected suicide bombers who attacked the Brussels airport and subway on Tuesday, killing 31 people and wounding 270.
Singing peace songs, taking selfies and wiping away tears, several hundred people have gathered at a central Brussels plaza to honor those killed in Islamic extremist attacks.
Ashraf, a Moroccan-born Muslim who is proud to call himself a Bruxellois, or a Brussels resident, came to light a candle and take photos of the memorial site with his mother, father, aunt and brother.
“It always happens, that people ask Muslims ‘why do you do this?’ But that is not real Islam,” he said. “We must have more understanding of this.”
Because of the climate of suspicion, and because he wanted to protect his family, Ashraf didn’t want his last name published.
Yet he came to the Place de la Bourse to celebrate this multi-cultural city.
“This is a special country, it is open. I know people of many, dozens of nationalities,” he said. Behind him, flags or symbols from a dozen countries adorned the square.
European justice and home affairs ministers are calling on the European parliament “as a matter of urgency” to adopt an agreement that would allow authorities to exchange airport passenger data.
The ministers issued a statement of solidarity with Belgium following an emergency meeting. The joint statement condemned the “horrific terrorist acts” on Tuesday in Brussels and described them as “an attack on our open, democratic society.”
The passenger data issue has long disturbed privacy campaigners, and figures large in the debate over security versus liberties. The United States has long pushed for better data sharing, but Europeans have balked over privacy issues.
Belgium authorities have lowered the terror threat level one notch, but say the situation is “exceptional” and “grave” and that another attack is “likely and possible.”
The head of the terror threat assessment authority, Paul Van Tigchelt, says the imminent nature of the threat has lessened since the attacks on the airport and subway Tuesday.
Nonetheless, he says “the danger has not gone away.”
The Dutch justice minister has confirmed that one of the Brussels suicide bombers was flown from Turkey to Amsterdam in July, but says that authorities weren’t told why and had no reason to detain him.
In a letter to parliament, Justice Minister Ard van der Steur said Thursday that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was put on a plane from Istanbul to the Dutch capital on July 14, but that Turkish officials didn’t say why and his name wasn’t flagged in any Dutch law enforcement databases.
Van der Steur says that El Bakraoui had a valid Belgian passport when he arrived in Amsterdam “so there was no reason to take any action” at Schiphol Airport.
It wasn’t clear what El Bakraoui did after arriving in the Netherlands.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that El Bakraoui, was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported, at his own request, to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.”
The Dutch version of events appeared to contradict that, with Van der Steur saying that an electronic message from Turkey’s foreign ministry to the Dutch embassy in Ankara gave no information about the reason El Bakraoui and an unidentified German national were put on the flight.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says France is proposing the creation of a taskforce to help in the fight against fake identities.
Speaking from the sidelines of the of EU justice and security ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Cazeneuve acknowledged that more must be done since “Islamic State managed to get fake passports and have established a structure that manufactures fake documents.”
Multiple suspects in Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels and November’s attacks in Paris were found to have used false identities.
Cazeneuve added that a united front needs to be shown also in the fight against arms trafficking, which he called “one of the main causes of the development of terrorist activities.”
A Brussels court has ordered 16 people to stand trial over an attempted terrorist attack in January 2015 — a plot linked to a man who later orchestrated the Paris attacks.
Belgian counterterrorism forces raided the town of Verviers on Jan. 15, 2015 to foil what was described as a jihadi plot to mount a major and imminent attack, killing two suspects.
The federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement Thursday that 16 people would be sent to trial, including four who are under pre-trial detention.
Among the initial suspects who will not face trial is Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected Paris attacks ringleader. He was killed in a police raid days after the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris. Abaaoud was linked to a string of thwarted attacks in France last year as well, and experts believe they were effectively rehearsals for the Paris violence.
Brussels airport has cancelled flights until at least Monday because of the Brussels attacks.
The long Easter weekend is one of the busiest in the year with at least some 600 flights for 60,000 passengers a day.
Sunday would be the sixth straight day without flights at the airport and airlines have made alternative plans to keep flight cancellations for their passengers to a minimum.
The Lithuanian president has slammed other European leaders as “too naive” in the face of extremism, saying that tougher measures are needed even if it means sacrificing some human rights.
In the wake of the Belgium attacks, Dalia Grybauskaite said that in the fight against extremist organizations “our reaction must be adequate … (and) the time to complain about human rights has long since passed.”
The Baltic leader was speaking in a local radio interview Thursday before meeting NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow and alliance ambassadors.
Lithuania, an eager NATO partner after nearly five decades of Soviet occupation, was allegedly involved in a secret CIA program, including providing a jail for terror suspects who were flown into the country by the U.S. intelligence agency in 2004-2005.
A senior official from Turkey’s ruling party says Belgian authorities should have treated Turkey’s warnings over one of the Brussels attackers with “more sensitivity.”
Omer Celik — spokesman for Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Justice and Development Party — also said Thursday the fact that Turkey had warned Brussels over the bomber should “put to shame” countries who have accuse Ankara of supporting the Islamic State group.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that one of the Brussels attackers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported, at his own request, to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.” Turkish officials said he was released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence of involvement in extremism.
“We caught him, we prevented him from crossing into Syria, we deported him and we warned Belgium and the Netherlands about him,” Celik said. “Since the warning was made by Turkey, they could have asked for more information. They could have treated the issue with more sensitivity.”
A Jet Airways manager says a flight attendant injured in the Belgium attacks is undergoing treatment for burns and has been placed in a medically induced coma.
Bernard Guisset, a Jet Airways manager in Brussels, said Nidhi Chaphekar has burns over 15 percent of her body and has a fractured foot, but is out of danger.
The image of Chaphekar taken right after the blast was one of the most searing photographs taken Tuesday. It showed the 40-year-old mother of two from Mumbai, her bright yellow uniform ripped across her chest. Her hair was caked with soot, and blood streaked down her face.
Meanwhile, Amit Motwani, a Jet Airways flight purser who was also injured in the airport blast, was being treated for injuries to his eye and ear.
France says it will use an emergency meeting in Brussels to call for better security measures in Europe.
Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll quoted President Francois Hollande as telling a Cabinet meeting that the country will “speak loud and clear” when EU ministers of Justice and Interior gather Thursday.
The French government is urging the EU parliament to authorize a common passenger name record for the bloc. The database contains details on air travelers, such as their names and destinations.
France wants the members of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area to improve their exchange of intelligence. It also wants the fight against the illegal trafficking of weapons to be on the agenda of the meeting.
France had already called for these measures to be quickly implemented following Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
Belgium’s interior minister submitted his resignation after unprecedented peacetime attacks on this country and revelations that one of the attackers had been flagged as a “foreign terrorist fighter,” but the prime minister refused to accept it.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon said after a government meeting Thursday that “If you put all things in a row, you can ask yourself major questions” about the government’s handling of the threat from Islamic extremists.
Tuesday’s attacks exposed authorities’ failures to prevent violence despite heightened concerns since the November Paris attacks, which were plotted from Belgium.
Turkey’s president said Wednesday that one of the Brussels suicide bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.” Turkish officials said he was later released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence of involvement in extremism.
Jambon said: “I realized that in these conditions it was justified to offer my resignation to the premier.”
Belgian prosecutors say that a suicide bomber who targeted the Brussels metro had rented a house used as a hideout for the Paris attackers, and that he had been hunted by police since December.
The statement Thursday by the federal prosecutors’ office confirms the link between the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris and Tuesday’s suicide bombings targeting the Brussels airport and subway system.
The statement says the Belgian magistrate investigating the Paris attacks issued European and international warrants for Khalid El Barkaoui on Dec. 11. It says he is suspected of renting a residence in Charleroi under an assumed name.
Several of the Paris bombers were Belgian or had links to Belgium.
The statement says police have conducted several raids since Tuesday’s attacks and arrested one person who was subsequently released.
Belgium’s prime minister is promising to do everything to determine who was responsible for deadly attacks targeting the Brussels airport and subway system.
Charles Michel, in a national mourning speech Thursday, said Tuesday’s attacks on the European Union’s capital targeted the “liberty of daily life” and “the liberty upon which the European project was built.”
“Our country and our population were hit at its heart,” he said in front of the Parliament building. He honored the “children who have lost their papas, who have lost their mamas” in the attacks, which killed at least 31 people and were claimed by Islamic State extremists.
“The cries of distress, the cries of pain, the scream of sirens, the apocalyptic images will remain engraved” on memories, he said — just like those of recent attacks in Paris, Mali, Tunisia and Turkey.
The lethal extremist attack in Belgium has sparked a pitched debate in Britain over whether the UK would be safer if it votes to leave the European Union.
Both sides in the upcoming June 23 referendum debate claimed the attacks in Brussels strengthened their position.
Intelligence figures and senior politicians seemed divided over the security issue, with former Secret Intelligence Service chief Richard Dearlove arguing that leaving the EU would make Britain more secure. He said it would free Britain from Europe’s “freedom of movement” rules and give Britain more control.
But Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, insisted Thursday that a departure from the EU would make Britain more vulnerable because it would no longer have access to intelligence-sharing systems.
The issue has also divided Prime Minister David Cameron’s Cabinet.
The international airport in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, has introduced new checks of passengers at the entrance to the terminal building as part of increased security following the attacks in Brussels.
Ivan Trhlik, director of the M.R.Stefanik airport, says passengers will be allowed to use only one entrance to the terminal and will immediately undergo a check at new security gates together with their luggage.
Trhlik said Thursday the measure is needed to ensure the safety of passengers. It could remain in place permanently.
Bratislava’s is a relatively small airport with 1.56 million passengers using it last year. Authorities say if the new checks cause delays, passengers will be advised to arrive at the terminal one hour sooner than usual.
Hungary’s interior minister says the government wants to limit phone calls in the vicinity of any future terror attack to prevent the overload of communications networks and avoid interference with emergency and rescue services.
Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said Thursday that civilians would be restricted to sending only text messages in areas affected by any attack. The concept’s technical aspects would be developed jointly with the telecommunications companies.
Pinter said networks frequently collapse after attacks because of the large number of people wanting to get in touch with friends or relatives.
Pinter said another alternative would be to expand an exclusive radio network already used by police and the disaster management agency to other emergency services like firefighters, ambulances and hospitals.
The idea is part of a new package of anti-terrorism measures being discussed by the government that also seeks to grant intelligence services greater access to financial transactions and personal communications.
The driver of the subway train bombed in Brussels this week immediately helped victims despite the horror and fear of the attack — but he insists he’s not a hero.
Christian Delhasse described to Belgian state broadcaster RTBF doing “what I had to do.” He’s reportedly already back at work, as the Belgian public transport system gradually gets back toward normal following Tuesday’s deadly attacks at the Maelbeek station and Brussels airport.
Delhasse posted a statement on his Facebook page saying, “I’m a metro driver who did his work in specific circumstances. Any other driver in my place would have done the same thing. The heroes are our firefighters, our forces of order, our army.”
He urged respect for “the victims we couldn’t pull out.”
The lawyer for the chief Paris attacks suspect says his client is not fighting extradition to France, which is seeking his extradition from Belgium to face potential terrorism charges.
Salah Abdeslam’s lawyer, Sven Mary, told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that he asked for a one-month delay on any transfer while he studies the large dossier.
He said that Abdeslam “wants to leave for France as quickly as possible.”
Abdeslam was captured in Brussels last week after four months on the run following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks on a stadium, rock concert and cafes that killed 130 people.
The chief suspect in last year’s deadly Paris attacks is facing a hearing in Brussels, amid increasing signs that the same Islamic State cell was behind attacks in both cities.
Salah Abdeslam is scheduled to face magistrates Thursday morning after his arrest last week in the same Brussels neighborhood where he grew up. France is seeking his extradition to face potential terrorism charges for his involvement in the Nov. 13 attacks on a Paris rock concert, stadium and cafes, which killed 130 people. Several attackers were also killed.
European security officials say one of the suicide bombers who attacked the Brussels airport Tuesday is a suspected bombmaker for the Paris attackers.
A car accompanied by police left the prison in Bruges where Abdeslam has been held on Thursday morning.
THURSDAY MARCH 24,2016
Belgian state broadcaster RTBF and France’s Le Monde are reporting that a second attacker is suspected of taking part in the bombing this week of a Brussels subway train and may be at large.
The media, citing unnamed sources, said Thursday the suspect was filmed by surveillance cameras in the Brussels metro on Tuesday carrying a large bag alongside Khalid El Bakraoui, whom prosecutors have identified as a suicide bomber. RTBF said it is not clear whether the second suspect was killed in the attack.
El Bakraoui’s brother was identified as one of two suicide bombers who targeted the Brussels airport the same day in attacks that killed at least 31 people and injured more than 200.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to the reports.
Two officials say the suspected bombmaker in the Paris attacks was one of two suicide bombers who died in the Brussels airport blasts.
The officials said that Najim Laachraoui’s DNA was verified as that of one of the attackers on Tuesday, after samples were taken from remains found at the blast site in Brussels airport.
One European intelligence official and one French police official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to divulge details of the Belgian investigation. Both officials were briefed on the investigation.
Laachraoui’s DNA was also found on the suicide belts used in the Paris attack, and authorities believe he was the bombmaker in the Nov. 13 attacks in the French capital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israelis know what Belgians are enduring and offered them his country’s expertise in combating attacks.
Netanyahu said at a news conference on Wednesday night that he had spoken with the Belgian prime minister and the EU foreign minister and wished Belgians a speedy recovery to the wounded in the name of the Israeli people.
Netanyahu said that “if there is one people in the world who knows what they are going through, it is the citizens of Israel who have bravely and heroically faced terror attacks for many years.”
He said that “I offered them full Israeli assistance in the struggle against terror, intelligence and security assistance.”
He said the world needs to unite and act against terrorism.
Authorities in the Bahamas say they are investigating whether one of the Brussels attackers, Khalid El Bakraoui, also had Bahamian nationality.
Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage said Wednesday in Parliament that there is an Interpol red notice that confirms that El Bakraoui had Belgian nationality and “then it says Bahamian not confirmed.”
Nottage says that Bahamian police have indicated that there is no evidence to suggest he is Bahamian, “but that matter is being investigated.”
Belgian authorities identified El Bakraoui as the suicide bomber who targeted the subway. They said his brother, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was a suicide bomber at the airport.
A relative of two young Americans missing since the Brussels attacks says the couple embraced the opportunity to live and travel in Europe.
Justin and Stephanie Shults had just waved goodbye to Stephanie’s mother as she walked though airport security when bomb blasts tore through the airport Tuesday.
The couple moved to Brussels for work in 2014. Stephanie’s cousin Larry Newsom said “they’ve taken full advantage of living over there and experiencing the world. They travel every month to a new place in Europe.”
Stephanie Shults, originally from Lexington, Kentucky, and her husband, from Tennessee, met in graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Newsom said the family hoped “they’ve just been helping people, which is very much their nature. But we can’t believe they wouldn’t have checked in.”
Brussels airport is going to remain closed at least until Saturday because of the double bomb attack there.
Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls says the date was pushed further back late Wednesday because authorities want to maintain a security perimeter until late Friday to continue their investigation into the attacks.
Every day the airport is closed, some 600 flights are being cancelled or diverted to other airports close by.
The bombings Tuesday at Brussels airport and a city subway station left 34 dead, including three bombers, and wounded 270 people.
The chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee says it appears to him that the attacks Tuesday in Belgium were targeting Americans.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California told reporters Wednesday after briefings with U.S. intelligence officials that one blast at the Brussels airport was close to counters for United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines — all U.S. carriers. Coupled with another blast on the subway close to the U.S. embassy, Nunes said it looks like an attack on Americans.
He says “if you are going to pick some locations (in Brussels) where you might hit Americans, those would be the locations.”
No other officials have suggested that the attack was targeting Americans. The subway blast was also close to the European Union headquarters in Brussels.
President Barack Obama has declared that fighting the Islamic State group is his “No. 1 priority” and has pledged that the United States will pursue the jihadist group until it is destroyed.
Speaking Wednesday while on a trip to Argentina, Obama says “I’ve got a lot of things on my plate, but my top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world.”
The American president says “the issue is, how do we do it in an intelligent way?”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, announced he is coming to Brussels on Friday to talk with European officials about fighting terror.
An official in the Turkish president’s office says the Brussels attacker who was deported from Turkey was Ibrahim El Bakraoui.
The official corrected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s account, saying El Bakraoui, who was caught in June at the Turkish-Syrian border, was deported to the Netherlands in July, not Belgium.
Turkey says it warned both Belgium and the Netherlands that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.”
The official says Dutch authorities later allowed him to go free because Belgian authorities could not establish any ties to terrorism. The official cannot be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
A Belgian prosecutor says El Bakraoui was a 29-year-old Belgian who blew himself up at the Brussels Airport on Tuesday.
—Suzan Fraser in Ankara.
Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Brussels on Friday to discuss the deadly attacks with top Belgian and European officials.
State Department spokesman John Kirby says Kerry will visit the Belgian capital to “formally express the condolences of the United States for the loss of life” in Tuesday’s bombings at the Brussels airport and subway.
He also will voice support for Belgian efforts to investigate the attacks and combat violent extremism.
At least 34 people were killed, including three suicide bombers, and more than 270 were wounded in the attacks claimed by Islamic State extremists.
Kerry is currently in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin and other officials on Syria and Ukraine.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says one of the Brussels attackers was caught in Turkey in June and deported to Belgium. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier reports said the attacker was deported to Belgium. AP issued a correction that it was to the Netherlands.)
Erdogan says Wednesday that the Belgian authorities released the suspect despite Turkish warnings that he was “a foreign fighter.”
Erdogan did not name the attacker. He said the man was detained at Turkey’s border with Syria at Gaziantep and that Turkey formally notified Belgian authorities of his deportation on July 14.
Erdogan says “despite our warnings that this person was a foreign terrorist fighter, Belgium could not establish any links with terrorism.”
Neighbors of two brothers who committed suicide attacks in Brussels are expressing shock and bewilderment at what happened.
John Valderrama lived across the hall from the brothers in the Schaerbeek neighborhood, but says he never heard anything suspicious. He said he only saw one person come in or out of the fifth-floor apartment.
He was surprised when hours after Tuesday’s attack, police burst into the brothers’ apartment, where they discovered a large cache of TATP explosives.
Valderrama says “when I saw them I went ‘Whoa!”
Another neighbor, Erdine, said he was about to drive his son to school around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when he saw two people carrying heavy bags out of the building.
The 36-year-old, who declined to give his last name due to the situation, says he saw a cab driver open his trunk. He says “the taxi driver tried to get the luggage. And the other guy reached for it like he was saying, ‘No, I’ll take it.'”
Prosecutors say the taxi driver tipped them off to the Schaerbeek address after the attacks.
A friendly soccer match between Belgium and Portugal next week has been moved to the Portuguese city of Leiria from Brussels because of the deadly attacks.
The Belgian federation reached agreement with its Portuguese counterpart on Wednesday, hours after the Belgians called off the match.
The match is still scheduled for next Tuesday, but not at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
At least 34 people were killed, including three suicide bombers, and more than 270 wounded in Tuesday’s bombings at the Brussels airport and subway.
Poland’s prime minister has urged European leaders to immediately open talks and find the means to end the “plague” of terrorism.
Prime Minister Beata Szydlo spoke Wednesday at the Belgian Embassy in Warsaw, where she laid flowers to honor the victims of Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.
Szydlo appealed for urgent talks that would allow Europe to “effectively counter this plague that is consuming Europe.”
She says “we must put an end to terrorism in Europe. We must not be afraid.”
The U.S. House of Representatives in Washington has approved a resolution condemning the attacks in Brussels.
The non-binding measure also pledges U.S. support for the Belgium government and declares that Islamic State militants pose a threat to freedom. The vote Wednesday was 409-0.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for bombing attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and a city subway that left 34 people dead, including three suicide bombers, and wounded 270.
The resolution also expresses condolences to those affected by the attacks.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says one of the lessons learned from yet another attack in a European Union nation is that the bloc’s 28 nations must heavily increase their investments in anti-terror measures.
Valls told reporters “in the coming years, EU nations will have to invest massively in their security system.” He spoke after meeting with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.
Valls mentioned specifically that more funds will be needed for “manpower, technology — to face the types of threats that we will have to face.”
A top European Union official says the bloc’s 28 nations need to cooperate better in sharing intelligence to counter the threat of religious extremism.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration and citizenship, was speaking Wednesday, a day after three bombings in Brussels killed 34 people including three suicide bombers and wounded 270 others.
He says “it’s a moment for all member states to start working together. To foster mutual trust, exchange information and intelligence, because this is the only way to go ahead.”
He said the EU’s police cooperation agency, Europol, is the place to share intelligence in an attempt to foil attacks.
The German government has held a minute of silence for the victims of the Brussels attacks at the start of its weekly Cabinet meeting.
The German Foreign Ministry also confirms that some of its citizens are among the over 270 people wounded in the Brussels attacks, including one seriously injured person. It did not elaborate.
Explosions at the Brussels airport and a city subway center killed 34 people Tuesday, including three suicide bombers, and wounded over 270 people.
Dozens gathered for a moment of silence outside the European Commission, hoping to show solidarity with the victims of the Brussels attacks and be with their fellow citizens in a time of crisis.
Among them was Alessandro Prister, 56, who works for Eurocontrol. He says Wednesday that he “felt it was my duty to show solidarity with all the victims” and to offer testament that this kind of attack should never happen again.
Prister was saddened that such things could happen in Brussels and says “I couldn’t be any other place today.”
Belgium’s chief prosecutor says investigators have found 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of TATP explosives at the house which the suspects in the Brussels attacks left from for the airport. Federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw says a cab driver who drove the three suspects to the airport led authorities to the house in Brussels. He says a special squad found the explosives inside the house, along with other chemicals that are commonly used to make bombs.
Explosions on Tuesday at the Brussels airport and a city subway center killed 34 people, including three suicide bombers, and wounded over 270 people.
The Belgian prosecutor says two suspects in the bombings at the Brussels airport have still not yet been identified — one of them is a dead suicide bomber and the other is still on the loose.
Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw, speaking about a surveillance photo showing three airport suspects, outlined what is known about them at a news conference Wednesday.
Van Leeuw says the culprit in the middle, one of the two suicide bombers, was Ibrahim El Bakraoui, a 29-year-old Belgian born in Brussels. He said he was identified based on a fingerprint.
He says the second suicide bomber, on the left in the picture, is not yet identified.
The third suspect, who wore a pale coat and a dark hat in the right side of the picture, is also not yet identified and is being sought by police.
That suspect took flight and left behind a big bag at the airport before the two explosions. Van Leeuw says that bag turned out to have the heaviest load of explosives of all and blew up later when the bomb squad was there due to the instability of the explosives. Van Leeuw says fortunately no one was injured.
Belgian authorities say several people possibly linked to deadly attacks on Brussels are still on the loose.
Paul Van Tigchelt, head of Belgium’s terrorism threat body, told reporters Wednesday that is why the country is keeping the terrorism threat level at its highest level, which means there is a danger of an imminent attack.
He spoke alongside prosecutors who say they are searching for at least one person directly involved in the attack on Brussels airport.
A Belgian prosecutor says a suicide bomber who attacked the Brussels airport left a will on a computer found in a trash can in a Brussels neighborhood.
Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw told reporters Wednesday that Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew himself up at the airport Tuesday in twin suicide bombings.
Investigators raided the Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek after the attacks and found a computer in a trash can on the street including a note from El Bakraoui saying he felt increasingly unsafe and feared landing in prison.
The prosecutor also said one person detained in one of the raids remains in custody Wednesday and is under questioning.
A Belgian prosecutor has identified two of the attackers who targeted the Brussels airport and subway as brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui but says another unidentified attacker remains at large.
Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw told reporters Wednesday that Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, and another as yet unidentified suicide bomber attacked the airport.
A third attacker also came to the airport with an explosive in a bag, but it exploded later and no one was hurt, the prosecutor said.
He said Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, blew himself up at the Maelbeek subway station. The attacks Tuesday killed at least 31 people and wounded 270, he said.
Brussels airport has announced that it will remain closed to passenger flights for at least another day, right up to the start of the busy Easter weekend.
Airport officials said they would have to cancel some 600 flights each on Wednesday and Thursday. It means that since the attack on the airport Tuesday morning, the flights of some 180,000 passengers will be disrupted.
Brussels airport was hoping to resume cargo flights earlier but there was no immediate word on when.
Belgians are holding a moment of silence to honor at least 34 people killed in unprecedented Islamic extremist attacks on Brussels.
Government offices, schools and residents marked the moment in a mood of anxiety, defiance — and fear that other people involved in the attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and a subway station may still be at large.
The country is holding three days of national mourning for the victims. In addition to those killed, over 200 people were wounded in the attacks.
Belgian police, meanwhile, are conducting raids and the country is at its highest terrorism alert level, meaning there’s a risk of an imminent attack.
The Belgian football federation has called off an international soccer friendly match against Portugal next week because of Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.
The federation said “because of security concerns” the city of Brussels asked for the cancellation and the federation obliged. The game was to have been played next Tuesday at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels.
The Belgian team, which is one of the favorites to win this summer’s European Championships, had already canceled training for the friendly since the attacks.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the show must go on and big events, be they sports or cultural, must not be put on hold for fear of terror attacks.
He says Wednesday that includes the Euro2016 soccer tournament, a monthlong event being held in France that starts in June.
Valls says “the big popular events are indispensable in showing that we are a free people, on our feet, that we aren’t scared.”
Some commentators had called for the soccer tournament to be postponed due to the threat of terror.
Valls says authorities know these events are faced with a terror threat and will plan accordingly. But he insists that events like the Euro2016 tournament, the Tour de France bicycling race and “other large demonstrations will take place.”
Pope Francis has led thousands of people in silent prayer for the victims of the attacks at Brussels’ airport and in its metro.
At the end of his public audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, Francis expressed his closeness to the “dear Belgian people” and asked the crowd of pilgrims and tourists to join him silently in prayer.
He also appealed to “all persons of good will to unite in unanimous condemnation” of the attacks causing death, horror and sorrow.
Francis is preparing to celebrate Holy Week ceremonies that will draw large crowds, including a Colosseum cross procession and culminating with Easter Mass in the square on Sunday.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome on Wednesday issued a travel alert advising “particular caution during religious holidays” as well as at large events.
The Czech Defense Ministry says soldiers have been deployed as part of stepped-up security measures following the attacks in Brussels.
As of Wednesday morning, the ministry says 550 service members will be patrolling international airports, train stations and other places in the capital and all across the country, working with police officers.
Security was also boosted at Prague’s subway network, at the country’s two nuclear power plants and some foreign embassies.
A lawyer’s assistant says a judicial hearing in Brussels for Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has been postponed for a day to Thursday, apparently because of heightened security concerns in the Belgian capital.
Bombing attacks Tuesday in the Brussels airport and subway killed 34 people and wounded scores, and the terrorism alert level throughout Belgium has been raised to its maximum level.
Abdeslam, who was arrested Friday in Brussels, was to appear Wednesday before a panel of judges who could extend his detention by another month. French authorities are seeking Abdeslam’s extradition so he can be tried for his alleged role in the Nov. 13 bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 in Paris.
An assistant to Sven Mary, Abdeslam’s defense lawyer, told The Associated Press her boss was told the hearing had been rescheduled for Thursday morning. She refused to give her name.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is urging the EU parliament to get going on authorizing a passenger name record (PNR) covering Europe.
He says: “It is urgent to adopt the European PNR. The European Parliament has waited too long to adopt this text. It must examine and adopt it in April, it’s time.”
Valls is going to Brussels today and says he will express his “full solidarity” with Belgium’s people.
As Brussels woke after its worst violence in decades, joggers ran loops and dog walkers chatted as usual in Brussels’ 18th-century Warandepark across from the country’s parliament. But gardeners on duty said the atmosphere was different, and the mood around town was jittery as sirens frequently wailed.
“It was black day. A very black day,” said Jean-Marie Vrebos, 58, who was cleaning the park’s playground. “We should punish those who commit terrorism. We don’t deserve terror. We should punish them, GRAB them” — he yanked a piece of trash off the ground with a clasper — “and bring them to justice.”
His colleague Kevin Engels, 24, said, “Behaviors have changed. Even our bosses seem stressed. They asked us to empty all the trash cans. We pay close attention to everything. And you can hear the sirens.”
Germany’s top security official says he wants European security agencies to be able to exchange information more easily.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told RTL television late Tuesday that the Brussels attacks “and the security situation, the terror situation, should make us put the data protection arguments last.”
De Maziere also says a soccer friendly match against England will go ahead despite the Brussels attacks. He says authorities “have no indications of a security threat” targeting the match in Berlin on Saturday.
In November, Islamic extremists tried to enter the stadium where Germany was playing France as part of a series of attacks in Paris. Days later, a friendly against the Netherlands days was canceled because of a security warning.
Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country’s deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union’s capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after 34 were killed in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station.
Police conducted raids into the night and circulated a photo of three men seen in the airport suspected of involvement in Tuesday’s attacks.
Belgian state broadcaster RTBF has identified two of the attackers as brothers Khalid and Brahim Bakraoui. They are believed to have blown themselves up in the attacks.
The third man is at large and has not been identified.
The report Wednesday says the brothers were known to police for past crimes, but nothing relating to terrorism. RTBF says Khalid Bakraoui had rented an apartment which was raided by police last week in an operation that led authorities to top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.
12:45 a.m. Wednesday March 23, 2016
The Islamic State group has issued an updated communique taking credit for the Brussels attacks and threatening other countries taking part in the anti-IS coalition.
The statement promises “dark days” for countries allied against the Islamic State, threatening that “what is coming is worse and more bitter.”
The communique was published in Arabic and French, and an English translation was provide by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites.
IS also released photos purportedly showing its fighters in Syria giving out candy to children to celebrate the Brussels attacks, according to SITE.
A Belgian security official says the death toll has risen to 34 in attacks on the Brussels airport and a subway station.
The official did not specify how many people were killed and wounded at each site. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because precise numbers were expected to be announced early Wednesday.
Earlier, the government had reported 20 dead at the Maelbeek metro station, in the heart of the European Union’s capital, and 11 dead at the airport, and scores of injured.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
President Barack Obama has ordered that all American flags in the U.S. be flown at half-staff through Saturday out of respect for victims of the Brussels attack.
Obama said in a proclamation issued hours after Tuesday’s attacks that “the American people stand with the people of Brussels. We will do whatever it takes, working with nations and peoples around the world, to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice, and to go after terrorists who threaten our people.”
German police say three Kosovars who are suspected of possible links to an extremist network have been arrested on a highway in the south of the country.
The state criminal police office in Bavaria confirmed a report by broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk that the three were arrested early Tuesday on the Munich-Salzburg highway, news agency dpa reported.
According to the report, they were in a Belgian-registered car. However, the criminal police office said that there are no indications at this point of any link with Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.
Police in the Belgian capital are calling on people who may have filmed images from the attacks on the city airport and subway to help assist with their investigation.
Brussels police called in a statement late Tuesday for help from “anyone who has amateur film where the attackers may be in view and could help move their investigation forward.”
The U.N. Security Council has strongly condemned the Brussels attacks and urging intensified regional and international efforts “to overcome terrorism and violent extremism.”
A statement approved by the U.N.’s most powerful body expressed solidarity with Belgium and underlined the need to bring those responsible for “these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.”
The Security Council again urged all countries to combat “terrorist acts” and take measures to prevent and stop the financing “of terrorism, terrorist organizations and individual terrorists.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also strongly condemned the attacks and expressed confidence “that Belgium’s and Europe’s commitment to human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence will continue to be the true and lasting response to the hatred and violence of which they became a victim today,” his spokesman said.
Belgium’s interior minister says authorities knew that some kind of extremist act was being prepared in Europe but that they were surprised by the scale of the attacks in Brussels.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Tuesday that “it was always possible that more attacks could happen but we never could have imagined something of this scale.”
Jambon told RTL television that “we had no information about this, but we know that things were moving in Europe, in different countries, in France, in Germany, here.”
He said the Belgian authorities have no information about the planning of “any kind of action in Brussels at this time.”
Some of Europe’s best-known monuments have been illuminated with Belgium’s national colors in a show of solidarity after the attacks in Brussels.
At nightfall Tuesday, the Eiffel Tower in Paris lit up in the black, yellow and red colors of the Belgian flag.
Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate, which after the November attacks in Paris was illuminated with the French colors of red, white and blue, also was lit up in Belgian colors. A few blocks away, some people laid flowers and lit candles outside the Belgian Embassy.
And in Italy, Rome’s Trevi Fountain joined in the show of Belgium’s national colors.
Belgian federal prosecutors say a house search in the Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek has “led to the discovery of an explosive device containing among other things nails.”
Investigators also found chemical products and an Islamic State flag.
Their statement said the Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels via a press agency but that this information still needs to be verified.
Prosecutors say it’s not possible at this stage to establish any links between the attacks Tuesday in Brussels and those in Paris on Nov. 13 that left 130 people dead.
A Belgian prosecutor says police raids are happening around the country after two men “probably” staged suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a third fled.
Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said Tuesday that the third suspect is actively being sought by police.
At least 31 people were killed and nearly 190 wounded in the two airport bombings and another in the Brussels subway system.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said the country will tighten security at its borders. He declared three days of national mourning after what he says were probably the most tragic attacks the country has seen in peacetime.
Federal police in Belgium have issued a wanted notice for a suspect in the Brussels airport bombing that they are still trying to identify.
A man wearing a thick light-colored jacket with a black hat and glasses is suspected of committing an attack at Zaventem airport on Tuesday morning.
They are urging the public to call them if they recognize the man.
Ralph Usbeck, 55, an electronics technician from Berlin, was checking his baggage for an American Airlines flight to Florida when the first blast struck in Brussels. He assumed it was a training exercise.
He says “seconds later, a much more heavy, heavy detonation happened, some more distance (away) but much more heavy. This was the moment I realized this was a terrorist act.”
He says few people appeared worried after the first bomb went off but the second did spark panic and crying amid billows of “dirty dust, like from concrete.”
He says “it took a very, very long time till the ambulances came” — maybe 30 minutes.
The British government is warning Britons against all but essential travel to Brussels in the wake of the bomb attacks.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said the travel advice was being changed in line with the advice issued by Belgium authorities.
Belgium on Tuesday raised its terror threat to the highest level — denoting “a serious and imminent threat” — and told residents to stay where they were after Tuesday’s bomb attacks on the city’s main airport and a subway train. The city’s transit network was shut down for several hours.
Downing St. said a team of British police had been sent to Brussels to help with the investigation into the attacks that have killed at least 31 people and wounded nearly 190.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged Belgium’s prime minister her country’s “full solidarity” following the Brussels attacks and says her Cabinet will discuss the bombings on Wednesday.
Merkel spoke with Prime Minister Charles Michel and promised that “we will work in every way with his government and the Belgian security forces to find those responsible for today’s crimes, detain and punish them.”
Merkel says “our strength lies in our unity, and our free societies will prove to be stronger than terrorism.”
Airport security has been boosted across Europe — and even across the Atlantic Ocean following the attacks in Brussels.
Police and aviation officials in the Nordic countries boosted security at major airports in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said security measures were increased at “critical infrastructure” in Germany and along its borders with France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Authorities also stepped up security around New York City even though there was no known link to the Brussels attacks that killed 31 people and left nearly 190 wounded.
The Port Authority Police Department increased security at New York City’s three area airports — John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty — and bridges, tunnels and the bus terminal. It placed anti-terrorist patrols throughout its trans-Hudson River system and the World Trade Center site. Additional bag checks also were being conducted at PATH stations.
Florence Muls, a spokeswoman for the Brussels Airport, says a third bomb has been neutralized at the airport after two other bombs killed at least 10 people there Tuesday morning.
Muls told The Associated Press the third bomb was dispensed of “with a controlled action” once the chaos of the first explosives had eased somewhat.
Elsewhere in the Belgian capital, anti-bomb squads detonated suspicious objects in at least two locations — the Maelbeek subway station and close to Brussels University a few miles further away. Authorities said those two did not contain explosives.
A U.S. official has told the AP the explosives in Brussels appear sophisticated, and investigators will examine them to see if they bear the same characteristics to those used in the Paris attacks last year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the terror attacks in Brussels have underlined the need to pool global efforts for combating terrorism.
Putin spoke in televised remarks Tuesday as he met with visiting Finnish President President Sauli Niinisto.
Putin began by offering condolences to the families of the victims in Brussels. He added “we have repeatedly discussed the issues related to the fight against terrorism, and it’s possible to efficiently combat it only by united efforts.”
Some other Russian officials and lawmakers have criticized Western reluctance to cooperate with Moscow on fighting terrorism amid the strain in Russia-West ties over the Ukrainian crisis.
The White House says President Barack Obama has expressed his condolences to Belgium and its people during a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Charles Michel following deadly terrorist attacks at the airport and a subway station.
Obama also offered assistance with the investigation and with bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The White House says the president reiterated U.S. support for the people of Belgium, NATO and the European Union. And he pledged the full cooperation by the U.S. in efforts to end terrorism.
Obama placed the call from Havana, where he was closing a historic three-day visit on Tuesday.
The head of the Brussels Airport says the airport will remain closed at least through Wednesday.
Airport CEO Arnaud Feist says two bombs ripped through the airport’s departure hall, killing at least 10 people there and injuring scores. Feist said it was still too early to assess the damage to the terminal and indicated the airport could be closed even longer.
He said thousands of passengers and personnel were at the airport during the morning rush hour when the attacks hit Tuesday.
The exact number killed at the airport is still unclear. Regional governor Lodewijk De Witte says there are “more than 10 deaths” there.
European Union leaders are pledging to tackle the terrorism threat with “all necessary means” after attacks on Brussels — the EU capital — that killed at least 31.
The heads of state and government of the 28-nation union said in a statement that Tuesday’s attack “only strengthens our resolve to defend European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant.”
They pledged to be “united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism.”
The statement didn’t elaborate on possible EU measures in response to the attacks.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office has made a new plea to the media not to spread any information about the investigation in the wake of the bombing attacks early Tuesday.
Belgian authorities had already made a similar plea during the days following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks when they were certain an attack in Brussels was imminent. It was largely followed by the media.
On Tuesday, the office again asked the media to immediately desist from spreading information from the ongoing investigation.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels, saying its extremists opened fire in the airport and “several of them” detonated suicide belts.
The posting in the group’s Amaq news agency said another suicide attacker detonated in the metro.
The posting claimed the attack was in response to Belgium’s support of the international coalition arrayed against it.
For more on the latest updates on the Brussels terror attacks follow along here. Update 4:23 p.m.: The Transportation Security Administration will send additional security to major city airports and various rail and transit stations around the U.S., according to a statement from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh …
People can start moving around Brussels once more after being told to stay in place for hours after bombing attacks Tuesday morning at the airport and on a subway station.
Peter Mertens of the Belgian crisis center says “the threat is still real and serious” of more attacks.
But he says air traffic at Brussels’ Zaventem airport “remains closed for the day under any circumstance” but people in the Belgian capital can start walking outside again and train stations are reopening.
At least 31 people were killed and nearly 190 wounded Tuesday after bombs went off in Brussels airport.
Florence Muls, the Brussels airport communications manager, is defending the security at the airport.
She tells The Associated Press that the terminal zone is open. That means there are no checks on luggage or passengers at the entry to the terminal — and European rules do not require closing it off.
She says the airport is does not have the ability or the mandate to impose controls at the airport terminal entry.
An Iraqi intelligence official says sources in the Syrian city of Raqqa have told them that the Islamic State group has been planning terrorist attacks in Europe for two months which would “target airports and train stations.”
The official tells The Associated Press on Tuesday that Iraqi officials told European countries about the plans “but Brussels was not part of the plans” at the time.
He says IS militants changed the operation and moved it to Brussels “because of the detention of Salah Abdeslam” — the Paris attacks suspect arrested Friday in Brussels.
Another senior Iraqi intelligence official said “Daesh (IS) was behind this operation and it was planned in Raqqa two months ago and there are three suicide attackers who will carry out another attack.”
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since the investigation was ongoing.
— Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad
A U.S. official says security officials believe at least one suitcase bomb was detonated at Brussels Airport on Tuesday morning.
The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the early investigations, confirmed a statement by a Brussels official that there is also concrete evidence of one suicide bombing at the airport Tuesday as well.
U.S. intelligence agencies had been on alert for possible attacks since Friday’s arrest in Belgium of accused Paris attacks conspirator Salah Abdeslam. But the official said it was unclear if Tuesday’s bombings were already planned and set in motion by his or another existing network, or if they were a direct response to Abdeslam’s arrest.
The official said the explosives seen in Brussels on Tuesday appear sophisticated. Investigators will examine them to see if they bear the same characteristics as those used in Paris last year.
— Bradley Klapper in Washington.
Pope Francis has condemned the “blind violence” of the Brussels attacks and has offered prayers for the victims, their families and emergency responders.
Francis’ secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a telegram of condolences Tuesday to the archbishop of Brussels, Mons. Jozef De Kesel.
In it, Francis said he “condemns once again the blind violence that breeds so much suffering and implores the gift of peace from God” for all Belgians.
Nations around Europe are declaring with solidarity with Brussels after three bombing attacks left at least 31 people dead in the Belgian capital.
The French National Assembly opened its session on Tuesday with a minute of silence for the victims. Lawmakers in the Czech parliament in Prague and lawmakers in Spain also held a minute of silence.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Belgium’s ambassador plan a silent gathering Tuesday evening and the Eiffel Tower will be lit in the colors of the Belgian flag.
In London, the British prime minister’s office at Downing Street in London has also raised the Belgian flag in solidarity.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has expressed solidarity with the Belgian government and says: “The fight against terrorism is our common fight.”
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec says security has been boosted at Prague’s international airport, the capital’s subway network, at some foreign embassies, other airports and all across the country, including at the Temelin nuclear plant.
Czech President Milos Zeman, who is known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, says “we underestimate the threat of terrorism linked to the wave of migrants.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the three bombings Tuesday morning that killed at least 31 people and wounded nearly 200 in Brussels.
A Belgian TV station is reporting that at least one of the bombs at the Brussels airport contained nails.
Flemish language broadcaster VTM interviewed Marc Decramer of the Gasthuisberg hospital in Leuven, who says the hospital is treating 11 people with serious injuries, three of them in critical condition. Decramer says the wounded have fractures and deep cuts caused by flying glass and nails.
Belgian officials say 31 people were killed Tuesday and 187 wounded in two explosions at the Belgium airport and one at a city subway station.
Passenger Cedric Vanderswalm says a late train and a full elevator at Brussels airport probably saved his life.
The 20-year-old from the coastal Belgian town of Knokke was at the Brussels airport on Tuesday planning to fly to London for his job as an animator.
He says was heading to the airport’s departures level but the elevator was full “so I didn’t get in. I waited and I was about to step into the elevator when there was a big explosion.” He says people started running, dropping their luggage.
He says “if I had taken the previous elevator, I would have been right in the explosion. My train also had a 5 minute delay, so I was lucky.”
The explosion coated the left side of his face with soot and dust.
The mayor of Brussels is raising the toll of dead and injured from a subway bombing.
Mayor Yvan Majeur now says at least 20 people have died and 106 people were injured in the attack on the Maelbeek subway station, which is close to the European Union headquarters.
Earlier, another top Belgian official said 11 people were killed and 81 have wounded in twin explosions at the Brussels airport.
So in all, 31 people have been killed and 187 wounded in the three blasts.
A minute of silence has been held outside the Spanish parliament and Madrid’s town hall at noon in memory of the victims in Brussels.
The Spanish government says the attacks Tuesday in Brussels show “the most brutal and inhumane side of those who know only the language of violence and terror.”
Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo linked the attacks to the Islamic State armed group. He says previous attacks in Paris claimed by IS militants had shown the assailants acting “like well-coordinated and militarily well-structured commandos” instead of lone wolves.
Top Spanish officials were meeting later on the situation but the Interior Ministry said for now Spain is keeping its national security alert at one step below the maximum.
A European security official in contact with Belgian police says least one and possibly two Kalashnikov rifles have been found in the departure lounge at the Brussels airport after the attacks.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.
Shiraz Maher, a senior researcher at The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London, calls the presence of guns in these attacks “quite significant.”
Maher says this “presents an incredible challenge to continental Europe, where guns are much more freely available as opposed to here in the United Kingdom.”
Maher says guns make it “much more difficult to secure soft targets like transport sites.”
—Paisley Dodds, Europe correspondent
London police are appealing for images and video footage from Britons who may have witnessed the attacks in Belgium.
The Metropolitan Police say they have “activated an online platform where images and videos can be uploaded which could provide important information for the investigating authorities.”
Earlier, British police stepped up security across the country, including transport hubs like London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
London Mayor Boris Johnson says the increased police is to reassure the public “rather than because of any intelligence of an attack.”
Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley says his agency is working closely with Belgium authorities on anti-terror efforts.
Britain’s threat level remains at “severe,” which means an attack is highly likely. It has been at that level since 2014.
Police in the Netherlands say they have halted an international train from Brussels to Amsterdam at a station just one stop from the Dutch capital’s busy Schiphol Airport as a precaution and are searching the train and its passengers.
Local police said on Twitter that Hoofddorp station had been evacuated and will stay closed until the investigation is completed. Passengers were being put up in nearby hotels.
There was no immediate word of any arrests and police did not say what prompted them to stop the train. The incident came just hours after deadly attacks on the Brussels airport and a city subway station.
Photos spread on social media are showing armed police patrolling the Dutch train station.
Hundreds of stranded passengers, some wheeling luggage carts from the Brussels airport, have gathered at a municipal sports hall in nearby town of Zaventem.
Henry Dewespelaere, a 22-year-old butcher, was one of the local volunteers in fluorescent yellow vests compiling lists of the passengers’ names and nationalities.
He says the travelers would have the option of being taken to a hotel in Leuven by train. If people elect to stay in Zaventem, he says “we don’t know yet what will happen, we’re waiting for further instructions.”
The Brussels airport was shut down Tuesday after it was hit by two explosions. Another explosion hit a city subway station. In all, 26 people have been killed and over 130 have been wounded in the attacks.
Belgian officials say the casualty toll from three explosions in the capital on Tuesday morning is 26 dead and at least 136 wounded.
Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block says 11 people are dead and 81 have been injured in twin explosions at the Brussels airport.
A Brussels subway spokesman says 15 people have been killed and 55 were injured in an explosion at the Maelbeek train station.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come after a top suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris was arrested Friday in a massive police raid in Brussels.
The U.S. Embassy in Brussels is recommending that Americans in Belgium stay where they are and avoid public transportation.
The embassy noted Tuesday that with the threat rating in Brussels at its highest alert, attacks can take place with little or no notice. It urged U.S. citizens to monitor media reports, follow instructions from the authorities, and “take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.”
More than 200 flights to Brussels have been diverted or canceled after three explosions that authorities are calling terror attacks, according to the flight tracking service Flightradar24.
Scores of people are dead after two explosions hit Brussels airport Tuesday morning and a third hit the city’s Maelbeek metro station.
The Brussels airport has been shut down and airport security has been tightened across Europe.
The European Union’s top official says he’s appalled by the attacks on Brussels’ main airport and a metro near the EU’s institutions and has offered Europe’s support.
EU Council President Donald Tusk says Tuesday “these attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence.”
He says the EU “will fulfill its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat which we are all facing.”
Staff at the EU institutions near the Maelbeek metro station — where at least 15 people have been killed by a blast — been warned to stay in their offices or at home.
French officials are condemning the Brussels attacks in the strongest terms.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking after a crisis meeting called by the French president, says “we are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”
President Francois Hollande says “terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted — and all the world that is concerned.”
Hollande also warned that “this war will be long” so sang froid and lucidity are needed.
Paris says it will light the Eiffel Tower in the colors of the Belgian flag. The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, described it in a tweet as a measure of “solidarity with Brussels.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff has called for solidarity with Belgium following the Brussels attacks that left scores dead.
Peter Altmaier tweeted Tuesday: “Terrorists will never win.”
He added: “Our European values much stronger than hate, violence, terror!”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says the West’s politics of “double standards” have led to terrorist attacks and that frozen diplomatic relations between NATO and Russia have slowed the fight with terrorism.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has offered its condolences to Belgium and expressed solidarity after the attacks Tuesday that left scores dead.
While Russia and the United States have brokered a fragile peace agreement in Syria, the two countries still disagree on how to tackle terrorist threats posed by the Islamic State group.
Prominent Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov also had a jab at Europe and NATO following the Brussels attacks. Pushkov later offered his condolences, but said “it’s time for Europe to understand where the genuine threat is coming from and join efforts with Russia.”
Facebook has activated its “safety check” system to help people check on friends and loved ones in the aftermath of the attacks in Brussels.
The company says Tuesday the system was put in use within hours of the three explosions at the Brussels airport and a metro station.
It says the system can provide an easy way for people to mark themselves as “safe” after a major disaster or crisis so that people searching for them will know they are unharmed.
The system has been used recently to help people communicate after major floods and earthquakes as well as terrorist attacks.
A Belgian subway official says there are 15 dead, 55 injured in the subway station attack.
Spokesman Guy Sablon gave the toll to The Associated Press after two explosions hit the Brussels airport on Tuesday morning and a third hit the city’s Maelbeek metro station.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, fighting back tears, has stopped short a news conference in Jordan after saying that “today is a difficult day,” in reference to the Brussels attacks.
Mogherini was wrapping up her opening statement Tuesday at a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh when she was overcome by emotion. When Judeh resumed speaking, she walked over to him, said “sorry” and briefly embraced him. The two then walked off the stage.
Mogherini and Judeh had been speaking for about 16 minutes when the news conference ended abruptly. In her opening remarks, she had talked about the importance of her visit to Jordan, praising the kingdom’s stance against militant Islam.
Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw is calling all three explosions in Brussels “terrorist attacks.”
Two of the explosions on Tuesday morning hit Brussels’ Zavantem airport and the third struck in the city’s Maelbeek metro station. Belgian media report that at least 13 are dead, and authorities are saying there are dead at both sites.
Van Leeuw says “one attack was probably done by a suicide bomber.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says “what we feared has happened” and says authorities are worried there will be more attacks.
Speaking a news conference in Brussels, Michel says “there are many dead, many injured” from the attacks earlier Tuesday at the airport and a subway station. He says border controls have been reinforced.
Michel says “we realize we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.”
Brussels police spokesman Christian De Coninck says there were deaths at the Maelbeek police station near European Union headquarters.
He says: “There are victims, serious injury, people have died. I have no idea yet on the numbers of injured or dead.”
France’s top security official said the country is reinforcing security at airports, train stations and metros after Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France immediately increased its vigilance after the attacks. France has been on highest alert since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.
Anthony Deloos, an employee of services company Swissport, said the first explosion took place near a counter where customers pay for overweight baggage. He and colleague said second blast was near the Starbucks.
“Twenty meters (yards) from us we heard a big explosion,” and shredded paper was flying through the air, Deloos said. He first thought a billboard had fallen down, but a colleague told him to run.
“I jumped into a luggage chute to be safe,” he said.
In a statement marked “aanslagen” — terror attacks in Dutch — the prosecutor’s office in Brussels has warned people to stay inside until the situation is cleared up.
After a few hours of uncertainty on the explosion during morning rush hour, it was the first official indication that indeed, they were expected to be terror attacks.
Eurostar has suspended high-speed rail service to Brussels-Midi station following the attacks at the airport and a metro station in Belgium
The rail service links London with Brussels and Paris via the Channel Tunnel.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says Belgium has “again been hit by cowardly and murderous attacks. Our hearts go out to the victims and next of kin. The Netherlands stands ready to help and support our southern neighbors in any possible way.”
Rutte says that “extra alertness is necessary, also in our country. We will take all necessary precautionary measures.” Rutte called a meeting Tuesday of his government’s Ministerial Crisis Committee to discuss the attacks.
The Dutch anti-terror authority said the country’s threat level was unchanged at “substantial.” It said extra security measures would be in place at the country’s airports and borders.
British airports are increasing security and Prime Minister David Cameron is convening the government’s emergency committee after the explosions at Brussels airport and on the city’s subway system.
Cameron said Britain would “do everything we can to help.”
Britain’s official terrorist threat level stands at “severe,” the second-highest level on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is highly likely.
Gatwick airport said that “as a result of the terrible incidents in Brussels we have increased our security presence and patrols around the airport.” Heathrow said it was working with police to provide a “high-visibility” presence on light of the attacks.
Germany’s justice minister says “today is a black day for Europe” following the attacks in Brussels.
Heiko Maas said Tuesday on Twitter that “the horrible events in Brussels affect us all.”
He added: “We are steadfastly at the Belgians’ side.”
French President Francois Hollande is holding an emergency meeting after explosions targeted Brussels airport and a metro station at morning rush hour.
The blasts came days after the arrest of the top suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, in Brussels.
Hollande is meeting with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
France remains in a state of emergency after the Nov. 13 attacks, which killed 130 people. Several attackers were also killed.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov tells Russian news agencies that authorities will re-evaluate security at Russian airports. In 2011, a suicide bombing at a Moscow airport killed 37 and injured many more.
Zach Mouzoun, who arrived on a flight from Geneva about 10 minutes before the first blast, told France’s BFM television that the second louder explosion brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes, mixing water with blood from victims.
“It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere.”
“We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene,”
An Associated Press reporter saw several people with facial injuries following an explosion in a Brussels metro station near European Union headquarters. At least two people were seen being moved on stretchers
Alexandre Brans, 32, who was wiping blood from his face, said: “The metro was leaving Maelbeek station when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro.”
Police say that at least one person was killed when two explosions ripped through the departure hall at Brussels airport.
“One person has died and perhaps there are several more,” said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the situation was developing.
The official urged people to stay away from the airport.
Two explosions ripped through Brussels airport Tuesday during the morning rush hour as hundreds of passengers were trying to check in. Airport authorities said the explosions caused several injuries.
Airport spokeswoman Anke Fransen said: “There were two blasts in the departure hall. First aid team are in place for help.”
Passengers were led onto the tarmac and the crisis center urged people not to come to the airport.
The explosions happened only days after the prime suspect in the Paris attacks Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.