BRUSSELS – Two explosions tore through Brussels airport on Tuesday morning killing 32 people in what Belgian public broadcaster VRT called a suicide attack, and a further blast struck a metro station in the capital shortly afterwards.
The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before two blasts rang out at the airport. Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.
A US official said that the explosions appeared to be a terrorist attack. It comes days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, one of the alleged Paris attackers who was captured in Brussels on Friday after a four-month manhunt.
The first explosions Tuesday morning hit the city’s main airport near the check-in counters. The second after 9 a.m. local time struck Maelbeek metro station, very near the heart of the European quarter in Brussels, home to the EU institutions.
Belgian officials immediately raised the terror alert across the country. There more than a dozen people killed at the airport and at least one death at the metro, according to officials. A person briefed on the incident said two devices exploded inside the airport outside the security check and that more than 100 people had been injured.
Smoke could be seen rising from the airport in the aftermath of the explosions. Police have closed the access road leading to the airport, which is located just outside the city in Zaventem, and police and ambulances were rushing to the scene.
The airport began evacuating the building where the explosions took place and an official warned people not to come to the area. “Don’t come to the airport—airport is being evacuated. Avoid the airport area. Flights have been cancelled,” the airport said.
Brussels shut down its entire public transport network after the blast at the metro station. Airlines said they were diverting inbound flights. Europe’s air-traffic management organization Eurocontrol on Tuesday warned airlines that the airport was unavailable until further notice.
Security was tightened across Europe, including at Germany’s largest airport in Frankfurt and at train stations and airports in France. French President François Hollande held an emergency meeting with the Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in response to the situation in Brussels.
The government officials in the UK and Italy also called emergency meetings to discuss the blasts.