Hunton for suspects in Brussels attacks
Terror chief: Several people who may be linked to atrocities are still on loose
Authorities were last night continuing to search for a man pictured at Brussels airport with two apparent suicide bombers, amid growing suggestions that Tuesday’s bombings in the Belgian capital were the work of the same ISIS cell that attacked Paris last year.
Several people who may be linked to the Brussels attacks were still on the loose and the country’s threat alert remained at its highest level, meaning there was danger of an imminent attack, said Paul van Tigchelt, head of Belgium’s terrorism threat body.
The attacks on Zaventem airport and a metro station in the city killed 34 people, including three suicide bombers, and injured 270 others.
Belgium began three days of mourning and held a moment of silence to honour the dead - defiance mixed with anxiety that others involved in the attacks could still be at large.
Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic van Leeuw identified two of the attackers as brothers - Ibrahim Al Bakraoui, a suicide bomber at the airport, and Khalid Al Bakraoui, who targeted the metro.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was due to visit Brussels last night, said: “It’s a war that terrorism has declared not only on France and on Europe, but on the world.” He urged tougher controls of the EU’s external borders.
Valls added: “We must be able to face the extension of radical Islamism... that perverts our youth.”
The rain has washed away the defiant chalk slogans from the square in front of Brussels’ stock exchange, the barriers are gone from many subway stations and trams are back running in the streets.
Europe’s capital returned to work yesterday but it isn’t business as usual.
A platoon of soldiers is standing guard outside the city’s central train station.
There’s only a trickle of tourists flowing through the gothic Grand Place and gardeners at Brussels’ 18thcentury Warandepark are checking each rubbish bin extra carefully.
Defiance and fear mingled in residents’ minds, as the city came to terms with the violence that they had long expected but had hoped wouldn’t come.
Dirk Verstraeten, 53, who was catching a bus to work, said: “You can’t protect yourself against terrorism. Are you going to stay at home today? Tomorrow? The day after tomorrow? Life must go on.”
Jean and Anne-Marie Materielle were one of only two dozen or so tourists admiring the gilded gothic facades of the Grand Place. The pair from central France arrived on Tuesday, getting to the Molenbeek neighbourhood only hours after the three bombs went off in the Brussels airport and metro station.
Both said they’d gotten an earful from a businessman who was devastated that his neighbourhood -a favoured locale for several of those who attacked Paris on November 13 - was once again at the centre of world attention.
“He wasn’t Jean said.
The mood on the street was jittery. Several metro stations were still closed, roads were snarled with traffic. Sirens repeatedly wailed.
Joggers ran loops and dog walkers chatted in the Warandepark, across from the country’s parliament. But the gardeners on duty said the atmosphere was different.
Jean-Marie Vrebos, a 58-year-old cleaning the park’s playground, said: “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.”
Thousands of Belgians and others came to a downtown square for a vigil, drawing messages of love and defiance in chalk on the pavement amid fluttering candles.
Loic Wiard stood silently at the vigil, his arms crossed as the Belgian national anthem played on his smartphone and a Belgian flag draped across his square shoulders.
SYMPATHY: A woman and two children attend a vigil in Brussels and, inset, Belgian student Laura Van Poucke takes part in a candle-lighting ceremony in Quezon City in the Philippines