Was Brus­sels’ metro blast tar­get­ing heart of EU?

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

EU of­fi­cials side-stepped ques­tions from the me­dia on whether Euro­pean Union in­sti­tu­tions were the likely tar­gets of the at­tacks in Brus­sels.

Three ap­par­ently co­or­di­nated ex­plo­sions at the air­port and a metro sta­tion shook Brus­sels on Tues­day, than 30 peo­ple and in­jur­ing at least 200.

The ex­plo­sion at Mael­beek metro sta­tion – lo­cated in the EU busi­ness zone – raises the ques­tion whether the EU in­sti­tu­tions, and their com­mut­ing e mploy­ees, were a tar­get.

Ex­plo­sives went off in one of the metro trains ap­proach­ing Mael­beek at 09.11 am, a few hun­dred me­tres from the Com­mis­sion’s Charle­magne and Ber­lay­mont build­ings.

The ex­plo­sion was 350 me­tres away from the main Coun­cil build­ing which of­ten hosts sum­mits with EU heads of state.

The Com­mis­sion’s DG Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment build­ing is lo­cated on the same street as the Maal­beek sta­tion and the staff there was even­tu­ally evac­u­ated.

Mael­beek metro sta­tion it­self is the main desti­na­tion for many of­fi­cials and politi­cians com­ing to work at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment . city’s main killing more

Rudi Ver­voort of the Brus­sels Re­gional Govern­ment said the at­tacks were of un­prece­dented scale in Bel­gium and had hit “strong sym­bols” of Brus­sels.

The Com­mis­sion raised its se­cu­rity level to ‘or­ange’ from ‘yel­low’ which means that no vis­i­tors are al­lowed to en­ter the build­ings, en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing build­ings and park­ing lots will also be more re­stricted for staff and jour­nal­ists.

The par­lia­ment was also – at least for some of the af­ter­noon – in lock­down.

Bel­gium raised its ter­ror threat to 4, the high­est level, with Brus­sels be­ing in lock­down. Staff work­ing for the EU in­sti­tu­tions were told to stay in­side build­ings or stay at home.

Mar­gari­tis Schi­nas, the Com­mis­sion’s chief

spokesper­son, stonewalled ques­tions dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the in­di­ca­tions that EU staff were de­lib­er­ately tar­geted.

“We con­tinue to work calmly and ef­fec­tively. We are here. We are in the build­ing. We feel safe and we do our work. The han­dling of the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion lies with the Bel­gian au­thor­i­ties,” Schi­nas re­sponded.

One EU source spec­u­la­tion.”

“Mael­beek… Yes,

re­peated

it

that now

is not

the time

“to

en­ter

is in the EU area, but so are other metro sta­tions. The Bel­gians are in charge. They are lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the Fed­eral Pros­e­cu­tor will be the one de­ter­min­ing what this is,” the source said.

The Com­mis­sion has spent the day try­ing to con­tact em­ploy­ees, but many are on hol­i­day due to the Easter break.

One or two ex­plo­sions were heard in morn­ing around 8am at Brus­sels Zaven­tem Air­port, near the Amer­i­can Air­lines check-in desk. Bel­gian pros­e­cu­tors con­firmed the Air­port blast is a sui­cide at­tack. Shouts in Ara­bic were heard be­fore the blast, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses.

An­other ex­plo­sion hit Maal­beek Metro sta­tion in the Euro­pean district, not far from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s flag­ship Ber­lay­mont build­ing at 9.11 am.

The death toll keeps ris­ing as fig­ures are up­dated by Bel­gian au­thor­i­ties: 14 dead and 81 in­jured at Brus­sels air­port; 20 dead and 106 in­jured at Maal­beek Metro sta­tion.

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