Emirates flights to Brussels to remain suspended till Sunday

Airport will also stay closed until at least Sunday

LATEST: Dubai-based carrier Emirates has announced that flights to Brussels remain cancelled until Sunday, March 27, due to the closure of the airpor

“Due to the closure of Brussels airport, Emirates flights to and from Brussels have been cancelled until 27th March,” the airline said in a tweet.

Earlier in the day, Brussels airport said it would remain closed to passenger flights until at least Sunday, extending the shutdown by another day following this week's deadly suicide bombings claimed by Daesh group.

"Passenger flights into and out of Brussels airport are suspended until Sunday 27 March included," the airport said on Twitter.

"There is much damage and we do not have access to the building as the investigation is still underway."

"Until we can assess the damage, it remains unclear when we can resume operations."

Passengers forced to leave luggage behind when fleeing the airport can now collect it from the cargo section of the airport, it added.

Two Daesh suicide bombers -- one named by prosecutors as Ibrahim El Bakraoui and the other by police sources as Paris attacks bomb-maker Najim Laachraoui -- blew themselves up at the airport on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people.

A huge manhunt is already under way for a third attacker at Brussels airport, a man wearing a hat seen on security footage with the other two as they pushed bomb-filled bags on trolleys through the terminal, but whose bomb did not go off.

Earlier, Brussels airport spokeswoman said it would remain closed until at least Saturday.

"The airport is closed to passengers until Friday included," spokeswoman Anke Fransen told AFP on Wednesday, a day after the attacks by two suicide bombers that wrecked the departure hall.

"We cannot say for certain if the flights will be reopened to passengers on Saturday," she said, adding however that cargo and private flights could resume "as of now".

Belgians hunt 'third man' after bombings

A "third man" seen with two Daesh suicide bombers at Brussels Airport was the focus of a Belgian manhunt on Thursday after police identified three others, including two brothers, who killed at least 31 people at the airport and on a city metro train.

Turkey's president criticised Belgium for failing to track Brahim El Bakraoui, a convicted Belgian armed robber whom it deported last year and who blew himself up at the airport on Tuesday an hour before his brother Khalid, a fellow convict, killed some 20 people at Maelbeek metro station in the city centre.

The third bomber, security sources told Belgian media, was Najim Laachraoui, a veteran Belgian fighter in Syria suspected of making explosive belts for November's Paris attacks and who also detonated a suitcase bomb at the airport.

The "third man", captured on airport security cameras pushing a baggage trolley into the departures hall alongside Laachraoui and Brahim El Bakraoui, is now the target of police searches.

The suspect fled the scene on Tuesday, federal prosecutors said, and a third suitcase bomb, the biggest of the three, was later found.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the bloodshed in the capital of the European Union, not far from NATO headquarters, showed that Washington's European allies should do more to fight Daesh alongside American efforts in the Middle East.

"The Brussels event is going to further signify to Europeans that, as we have been accelerating our campaign to defeat Daesh in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere, they need to accelerate their efforts and join us," Carter told CNN.

About 300 people were wounded. Casualties came from some 40 nationalities, drawing an international outpouring of support for the cosmopolitan city during three days of mourning.

U.S. President Barack Obama offered "any assistance that we can" to Belgium in bringing surviving assailants to justice.

Washington announced that Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Belgium on Friday to demonstrate solidarity.

The Belgian government deflected the criticism from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, saying the elder Bakraoui brother, 29, had not been deported back to Belgium but to the neighbouring Netherlands. Officials have said that as in the case of one of the Paris suicide bombers, they cannot detain militant suspects expelled from Turkey without clear evidence of a crime.

"Belgium ignored our warning that this person is a foreign fighter," Erdogan said of Brahim El Bakraoui, who was detained near the Syrian border and deported last July.

The case highlighted the problem Belgium has faced with some 300 locals who have fought in Syria, the biggest contingent from Europe in relation to its national population of 11 million.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, leading efforts to counter international criticism of Belgian policies toward containing violent extremists, said security had to be balanced with civil rights.

On Tuesday, U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump suggested torture could be used on militant suspects.

Belgium, which has deployed warplanes to coalition operations in the Middle East, has beefed up investment in police and intelligence services since 130 people were killed in Paris on Nov. 13 in attacks planned by Brussels-based militants.

European Union interior ministers will meet at the EU Council in Brussels on Thursday to discuss better coordination, although officials say many states withhold their most cherished data despite a mantra of willingness to share intelligence,

MANHUNT

As Brussels struggled to return to normal, its airport remained shut until at least Saturday.

The suspect who fled, his face concealed by a hat and glasses in the security video, has yet to be identified. Earlier, it was thought he was Laachraoui, whose DNA was found on suicide belts in Paris and who was documented last September, under a false name, driving with the prime suspect in the Paris attacks from Hungary, possibly on a trip from Syria.

The driver then was Salah Abdeslam, arrested on Friday in Brussels, who prosecutors say confessed to planning to blow himself up in the French capital before a change of heart.

Abdeslam's lawyer said he was cooperating with investigators. Whatever information he gave did not lead them in time to the Bakraouis, the younger of whom, local media said, rented an apartment where the discovery last week of Abdeslam's fingerprint led to his capture. There was speculation the brothers may have escaped that apartment during a shootout.

A possibly greater loss of life may have been averted, local paper DH said, because a taxi dispatcher sent a smaller car than the bombers ordered. A fourth, even larger case that was later found in their apartment, would not fit and they left it behind, the unidentified taxi driver told investigators, DH said.

Police defused that bomb, which was made of similar homemade explosives to those used in the airport and metro attacks.

In a garbage bin near that apartment, to which the driver led police, investigators found a computer that carried the last will and testament of Brahim El Bakraoui.

The prosecutor quoted from it, reading: "Always on the run, not knowing what to do anymore, being looked for everywhere, not being safe any longer and that if he waits around any longer he risks ending up next to the person in a cell."

That may have been a reference to the captured Abdeslam, whose barkeeper brother was deported from Turkey early last year and who blew himself up at a cafe in Paris on Nov. 13.

'UNITED IN PAIN'

A minute's silence was observed at noon and another is planned across the country for Thursday.

Prime Minister Charles Michel cancelled a trip to China and reviewed security measures with his inner Cabinet before attending a memorial event at European Commission headquarters with King Philippe and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

"We are determined, admittedly with a strong feeling of pain in our stomachs, but determined to act," Michel told a  news conference with Valls after they visited Maelbeek station.

"France and Belgium are united in pain more than ever."

Valls played down cross-border sniping over security, saying: "We must turn the page on naiveté, a form of carefree attitude that our societies have known. It is Europe that has been attacked. The response to terrorism must be European."

Hundreds of people gathered around an improvised shrine with candles and street paintings outside the Brussels bourse.

Belgium's crisis coordination centre kept the level of security alert at the maximum as the manhunt continued.

15kg of explosives found, brothers confirmed as bombers

Belgium confirms brothers were suicide bombers

Two brothers carried out suicide bombings at Brussels airport and on the metro on Tuesday, the federal prosecutor said on Wednesday, adding that airport bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui had left a will on a computer.

His brother Khalid blew himself up on a carriage of the Brussels metro at Maelbeek station, Frederic Van Leeuw told a news conference. Two other men captured on CCTV at the airport with Ibrahim had yet to be identified, he said.

The first bomb at the airport went off near desk 11 at 0758 (0658 GMT) and the second followed 9 seconds later near desk 2 of the departure hall, Van Leeuw said.

The prosecutor quoted Ibrahim's will as saying: "Always on the run, not knowing what to do anymore, being looked for everywhere, not being safe any longer and that if he waits around any longer he risks ending up next to the person in a cell."

The second airport suicide bomber has not been identified while the third man, who left the airport before the explosions, is still being hunted, Van Leeuw said.

At a raid in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek on Tuesday night police found 15kg of explosives, 150 litres of acetone, 30 litres of oxygenated water, detonators, a suitcase filled with screws and nails as well as materials, such as plastic boxes, needed to pack up the explosives.

EARLIER: Police investigating the Brussels attacks found 15kg of TATP high explosives and a mass of bomb-making material during searches in the Schaerbeek district of the Belgian capital, the federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

Frederic van Leeuw said police also found 150 litres of acetone, detonators, bags filled with nails plus other equipment used to make bombs of the type used in the attacks which killed 31 people and wounded another 270.

TATP high explosives have been used extensively by terrorists.

EARLIER:  Belgian broadcaster identifies 2 Brussels attackers as brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui.

UPDATE: Belgian media withdraw report that attacks suspect Laachraoui arrested

Belgian media on Wednesday withdrew reports that a man arrested in the capital was Brussels attacks suspect Najim Laachraoui.

"Arrested man in Anderlecht is not Najim Laachraoui," the Derniere Heure newspaper tweeted, while the RTL broadcaster said that the "suspect arrested in Anderlecht was not Najim Laachraoui in the end."

EARLIER: The Brussels airport attacker still at large is Najim Laachraoui, 25, a man already sought by police since Monday, Belgian newspaper ‘DH’ said.

Laachraoui's DNA has been found in houses used by the Paris attackers last year, prosecutors said on Monday, and he had travelled to Hungary in September with Paris attacks prime suspect Salah Abdeslam.  

EARLIER REPORTS: Images of suspects released; 200 hurt, 35 dead

Belgium pressed a huge manhunt Wednesday after Daesh bombers attacked Brussels airport and a metro train, killing around 35 people and wounding hundreds as militants once again struck at the heart of Europe.

Two massive suicide blasts by men with bombs in their bags hit Zaventem Airport, leaving blood and mangled bodies strewn across the check-in hall and sending terrified travellers fleeing.

(AP)

Police helicopters hovered over the city late into the night and raids were under way across Belgium, prosecutors said, adding that a bomb, a Daesh flag and chemicals had been found in one apartment.

"This is a day of tragedy, a black day," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, describing the bombings as "deadliest attacks we have ever seen in Belgium".

(AP)

CCTV footages of alleged suspects

More than 200 people were wounded in the two attacks, including four Mormon missionaries - three Americans and one French - two Britons and two Colombians. Eight French were wounded, the foreign ministry said, though it was unclear if this included the Mormon.

(AP)

Belgian authorities published surveillance images showing the three male suspects of the airport attack. Hwo had dark hair and were wearing a glove on only one hand, and a third, who is being hunted by Belgian police, was wearing a hat and a white coat.

"They came in a taxi with their suitcases, their bombs were in their bags," Zaventem mayor Francis Vermeiren said.

(AP)

"They put their suitcases on trolleys, the first two bombs exploded. The third also put his on a trolley but he must have panicked, it didn't explode."

Belgian authorities had been on alert after Abdeslam, Europe's most wanted man, told investigators he had been planning an attack on Brussels.

World reacts with outrage

Leaders across Europe reacted with outrage, with the EU vowing to combat terrorism "with all means necessary" 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 November's attacks.

(AP)

Landmarks around the world, from New York's One World Trade Center to the Eiffel Tower in Paris were lit up in the black, yellow and red of Belgium's national flag in solidarity.

US President Barack Obama vowed to stand with Belgium in the face of the "outrageous" attacks and ordered US flags flown at half mast, while the FBI and New York police said they would send investigators to help.

(AP)

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said those responsible for the "despicable" bombings" should face justice, while Belgian King Philippe condemned the "cowardly and odious" assault. Hundreds of flights and trains were cancelled as Europe tightened security, while across the Atlantic, New York and Washington ordered extra precautions at key areas.

EARLIER REPORTS: Europe freezes air, rail links with Belgian capital; three-days mourning

Militant group Daesh today claimed responsibility for Brussels attacks.

Belgian authorities published surveillance camera images of three suspects in the attack on Brussels airport on Tuesday in which dozens of people were killed, Belga news agency reported.

(Getty Images)

The grainy picture, which Belga said was released by Belgian police at the request of the federal prosecutor, shows three men pushing trollies with suitcases past the check-in area. Two have dark hair and one is wearing a hat.

Belgium will hold three days of national mourning in the wake of the deadly attacks in the capital Brussels that killed around 35 people.

A Tintin cartoon drawn by Colombian cartoonist Vladimir Flores "Vladdo" in homage to the victims of terrorist attacks in Brussels went viral on March 22, 2016. (AFP)

"All national flags on public buildings will be at half-mast through Thursday," Frederic Cauderlier, spokesman for Belgian premier Charles Michel, told AFP.

But as Belgium began three days of national mourning on Wednesday, he insisted Belgium would not be cowed by the "blind, violent and cowardly" attacks.

Europe freezes air, rail links with Brussels

Airlines cancelled hundreds of flights and European railways froze links with Brussels Tuesday after a series of bombs blasts killed around 35 people in the city's airport and a metro train, sparking a broad security response.

Belgium locked down the capital, home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, and imposed its highest level of security alert after the explosions, which extinguished about 20 lives in the metro and another 14 in the airport, according to authorities in Brussels.

As passengers fled the smoking airport and the city-centre Maalbeek metro station, where a train was blown apart, transport operators shut down the airport, metro system, buses, trams and major railway stations in the capital.

"Our whole network is closed at the moment," the Brussels public transport operator STIB warned people on Twitter, confirming the closure of metro, bus and tram systems. Major railway stations were closed, too, the Brussels public prosecutor said.

Eurostar said all trains to and from Brussels had been halted.

"Our thoughts rest with anyone affected by the unfolding events in Brussels," it said in a statement.

The high speed train service Thalys, which links France and Belgium, said all its traffic, too, had been stopped.

The Brussels-Zaventem international airport is closed until 6am (0500 GMT) Wednesday, the airport said.

The airport shutdown forced more than 500 arrivals and departures to be cancelled or diverted, according to the European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell in Brussels, paralysing air links with cities across Europe and other international airports.

"As a result of the attacks in Brussels, a number of other countries have increased security measures at airports. This could cause additional delays for passengers," the crisis cell said in a statement.

Airports tighten security

"All flights cancelled at #brusselsairport for the rest of the day. Avoid the surroundings of the airport," the airport said on Twitter.

"All our thoughts go to the victims of the horrible events that happened here at #brusselsairport this morning, their family and friends."

Belgium's crisis centre urged people not to move. "No public transport. Stay where you are, also in schools, companies," it said on Twitter.

Forces tightened security at nuclear plants across the country, the Belga news agency said. "Vehicles are being checked with police and army on site," the agency added.

Belgium's neighbours France, Germany and the Netherlands reacted swiftly.

In France, where the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people were intricately linked to jihadist networks in Belgium, an additional 1,600 police are being deployed to border crossings, airports, ports and train stations, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

People in France will need tickets or ID cards to access public transport areas, he said, and they may be frisked.

Major stations in Paris remained open but AFP correspondents saw many police patrolling in the city's Gare du Nord, from where Eurostar operates trains to London and Brussels.

In Germany, federal police said controls were being stepped up at the border with Belgium and at airports and stations.

The Netherlands, likewise, strengthened surveillance at the border with Belgium and ordered extra patrols at national airports and train stations.

"We are taking extra security measures as a precaution," the Dutch anti-terrorism services said in an online statement, notably stepping up police patrols at Amsterdam's Schiphol international airport, Rotterdam and Eindhoven.

London Gatwick, Frankfurt and Moscow airports raised security, too.

Across the Atlantic, police in New York said they were positioning counter-terrorism reinforcements to crowded areas and train stations "out of an abundance of caution". In Washington DC, canine sweeps and patrols and patrols were stepped up, also as a precaution.

Here is a timeline of what has happened so far on Tuesday.

- Around 0700 GMT (8:00 a.m. local time): Two blasts hit Zaventem international airport outside Brussels. Witnesses cited by the Belga news agency say they first heard shots in the departure hall before someone shouted in Arabic and then two explosions occurred.

- Shortly before 0800 GMT: Federal police say at least one person is dead and several others wounded.

The airport is closed and a crisis cell meets at the interior ministry.

- Shortly after 0800 GMT: A third explosion rocks the Maalbeek metro station near the EU headquarters. Around a dozen injuries are reported at first.

- 0815 GMT: Belgium moves to its highest level of terror alert.

- Shortly before 0900 GMT: The European Commission tells staff to stay home or in their offices.

- Shortly after 0900 GMT:  The federal prosecutor's office issues a casualty toll of at least 13 dead and 35 wounded at the airport.

- Shortly before 0930 GMT: The crisis centre asks inhabitants to stay put, and all public transport systems grind to a halt.

- Security is reinforced in airports, train stations and public transport systems in Paris, while airports in Frankfurt, London, Moscow and the Netherlands beef up their measures too. The border between Belgium and the Netherlands is reinforced.

- Shortly before 1000 GMT: Fire services say at least 21 people have died, including 11 at the airport.

-  High-speed Thalys trains between Belgium, France and the Netherlands stop running.

- 1015 GMT: European Council President Donald Tusk condemns the "terrorist attacks".

- Shortly before 1030 GMT, police and soldiers reinforce security around Belgium's nuclear power plants.

- 1043 GMT: Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel condemns the "blind, violent and cowardly" attacks.

- 1046 GMT: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the Eiffel Tower will be lit in Belgium's national colours and calls for a silent vigil in the evening in Paris.

- Shortly before 1100 GMT: Federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw says one airport blast was "probably caused by a suicide bomber."

- 1100 GMT: "The whole of Europe has been hit," says French President Francois Hollande.

- 1115 GMT: Brussels transport operator STIB says the metro blast killed at least 15 people and wounded at least 55, including 30 seriously.

- Eurostar train service between London and Brussels is suspended.

- 1230 GMT: "We will never let these terrorists win," says British Prime Minister David Cameron.

- 1235 GMT: The investigation is ongoing and authorities "fear that people are still at large," says Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

- 1336 GMT: Local mayor Yvan Mayeur says "there are around 20 dead with another 106 wounded, 17 of them gravely" at the metro station.

- 1357 GMT: A fire service spokesman says the airport attack killed 14 people and left more than 90 wounded, and warns the toll could change.

- The number of known casualties stands at around 35 dead and more than 200 wounded.

 

Print
  • Twitter
  • submit to reddit
comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Most Popular in News

Follow
Emirates 24|7

In Case You Missed It ...

Happiness Meter Icon