The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks on Tuesday, according to a news agency close to the outfit, reported Reuters. At least 34 people have been reported killed in explosions at Brussels' Zaventem airport and Maalbeek Metro station on Tuesday. The Belgian federal prosecutor said a suicide bomber blew himself up at the airport on Tuesday morning. At least 14 people were killed in two explosions that were reported in the airport's departure hall. Twenty other people have been reported killed in an explosion that took place at the metro station located near the European Union headquarters. The Belgian prosecutor confirmed that both were terror attacks. While it is still unclear who was behind the blasts, they occurred four days after the Belgian police arrested Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the November 13 Paris attacks.
Here is how the events unfolded on Tuesday:
9 pm: The Islamic State has claimed the Brussels attacks, according to the Amaq news agency, which is close to the outfit, reported Reuters.
8.45 pm: Belgium has announced three days of national mourning after the attacks, reported AFP.
8 pm: French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the Brussels attacks reinforced the need for “very high security” at the European football championship in France later this year, reported AP.
6.50 pm: The official toll from both attacks has risen to 34. Belgian health minister Maggie de Block said that 14 people have died and 81 injured in the twin airport explosions. The metro authority, STIB-MIVB, and emergency services said 20 people were killed in the Maelbeek metro blast. Speaking at a press conference, the Mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur, said that it is “too early to say exactly what the number of victims will be”. He confirmed that 106 people had been injured in the metro station blast.
6.40 pm: An unexploded suicide vest was discovered at the Brussels airport, according to an unconfirmed report by the broadcaster VTM. It was blown up in a controlled explosion by a bomb squad, reported The Guardian.
6 pm: American Airlines has denied reports that the Brussels airport explosions occurred near its check-in desk in the departure hall:
5.30 pm: Belgian health minister Maggie de Block confirmed that 11 people have been killed and 81 were injured in the airport explosions. The Belgian metro authority, La Stib, told broadcaster RTBF that at least 15 people were killed in the Maalbeek metro blast, and 55 others were injured.
4.45 pm: Brussels transit spokesman Guy Sablon said that 15 people have been killed and 55 others injured in the attack at the metro station, reported AP.
4.25 pm: Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel said that terrorists have committed murder at the Brussels airport and the Maalbeek metro station. In a televised press conference, he said that military reinforcements have been deployed. Michel confirmed that the attack at the airport was carried by a suicide bomber.
4.15 pm: The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to Belgium on March 30 for the India-EU summit remains unchanged.
4 pm: Jet Airways has confirmed that two of its staff were injured in the airport explosion. Here is it's latest statement:
3.50 pm: Belgian broadcaster RTBF said that 15 people have been killed in the Maelbeek metro blast, quoting transport operator STIB. There has been no official confirmation of the toll so far, with some reports saying as many as 35 people have been injured. Brussels police said there were deaths at the Maelbeek police station near the EU headquarters, reported AP. There are unconfirmed reports that 10 people were killed at the police station.
3.45 pm: France has announced that it will deploy an extra 1,600 police officers at its borders following the Brussels attacks. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, “It is essential to maintain a vigilance.” European Council head Donald Tusk said the Brussels attacks “mark another low by the terrorists”.
3.30 pm: Belgium’s federal prosecutor has confirmed that the explosions at Brussels airport were carried out by a suicide bomber, according to broadcasters VTM and RTBF.
3.20 pm: Brussels airport will remain closed until 6 am local time on Wednesday. American Airlines, whose desk at the airport's departure hall was reported to be the target of the explosions, said that all of its employees and contractors are safe. Jet Airways released the following statement:
However, NDTV reported that two Jet Airways crew members were injured. Both have been taken to the hospital, according to the report.
3.15 pm: Belgian broadcaster VTM reported that 10 people were killed in the blast at the Maelbeek Metro station, according to Reuters. AFP reported that at least 15 people were injured in the subway blast. However, another local broadcaster VTR reported that no one was killed in this explosion.
2.50 pm: Brussels airport has released an emergency contact number for people wanting information about their family or friends:
2.45 pm: Here is what we know so far:
- Two explosions reported at the Brussels airport, reportedly targeting the American Airlines desk in the departure hall. One explosion reported at the Maalbeek Metro station near the European Union headquarters;
- Belgian broadcaster VRT reported that 13 people have been killed, while 35 have been severely injured in the airport explosions. CNN-IBN reported the Indian Ministry of External Affairs saying that no Indians have been reported killed or injured.
- It is still unclear who was behind the attacks. The Belgium government has raised the nation's terror alert to the highest level.
- The explosions occurred days after the arrest of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels.
2.20 pm: Belgian broadcaster VRT said that the Brussels airport explosion was a suicide attack, reported Reuters. This has not been confirmed yet. VRT also reported that 13 people have been killed, while 35 have been severely injured in the airport explosions.
2pm: The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that there have been no Indian casualties reported, according to CNN-IBN. The entire Metro system in Brussels has been closed.
Here is a video posted on Twitter after the blast at the metro station:
1.30 pm: According to The Guardian, the federal prosecutor confirmed that explosions took place, but could not confirm if they were terrorist attacks. The airport is being cleared completely, the BBC reported, while Belgium's Het Laatste Nieuws claimed more bombs have been found.
Another video showed people running for cover soon after the blasts.
1 pm: Rail routes to the airport have been closed. Belgian media reported that flights have also been cancelled and the airport is being evacuated. Some reports said at least one explosion was close to the American Airlines check-in area, but this too has not been confirmed. Witnesses said the glass windows at the airport were completely shattered, and another added that people have also been injured at the departure area. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said he was following the operations "minute-by-minute".
It is unclear whether Tuesday's explosions have any relation to captured Islamic State operative Salah Abdeslam or any other terror group. On March 19, Belgian authorities arrested Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam after a raid on an apartment in the city's Molenbeek area. The country's foreign minister had said that Abdeslam was planning new operations and possibly had access to several weapons. During his interrogation, Abdeslam claimed that "he was ready to restart something from Brussels," Foreign Minister Didier Reynders had said. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action following Abdeslam's arrest.
The Zaventem airport is 11 km north-east of Brussels. More than than 23 million passengers travel through it every year.