March 22, 2016

Multiple terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday morning killed at least thirty-four people. There were two severe explosions in the departure hall of the city’s international Zaventem airport, which claimed the lives of fourteen people. The Belgian federal prosecutor, Férdéric van Leeuw, suggests that one of the explosions was probably caused by a suicide attack. Half an hour later the intense blasts in the airport, Maelbeek metro station was hit by an explosion, killing twenty and injuring more than a hundred people. This is the severest terrorist assault that has hit Europe since the November 13 attacks in Paris. Belgium has increased its terror alert to the maximum level, and the interior ministry has announced three days of national mourning. ISIS has claimed the responsibility of what seems to be highly coordinated assaults.

Following the Paris attacks, Belgian authorities were apprehensive about a major terrorist assault in the country. After the revelation that the November attacks in Paris were planned in Brussels, extensive police operations were conducted in the city. Molenbeek neighbourhood in Brussels, to which the terrorists of November 13 attacks were closely linked, was especially placed under close scrutiny. Molenbeek was deemed “the jihadist capital of Europe” by some Belgian newspapers. The reputation of Molenbeek as the jihadist centre in Europe was confirmed on March 18, when Salah Abdeslam, one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks, was arrested in an apartment in the neighbourhood. Abdeslam has confessed that he was involved in the Paris attacks, and he has also indicated that he has been preparing for another attack in Belgium. It remains to be seen if there is a link between Abdeslam’s arrest and terrorist attacks that occurred four days later. Some suggested that the terrorists assaults in Belgium today were a retaliation against the arrest of Abdeslam. Also there is another possibility. Yesterday, Sven Mary, Abdeslam’s lawyer, told reporters that Abdeslam was not using his right to remain silent and cooperating with the police. It could be possible that ISIS has expeditiously carried out the attack before the authorities get hold of the plan.

Charles Michel, prime minister of Belgium, in his speech to the public, told, “What we feared has happened.” Brussels was traumatised today. In addition to the closure of metro stations and the airport, the public transportation was also suspended. The residents were asked to stay indoors. Schools were closed, and museums and public buildings were evacuated. All hospitals in the capital has been mobilised for attending to the injured. Military is deployed for securing the city and strategically important places. Prime Minister deplored, “We are living in a tragic moment, a black time for our country.”

France was also on high alert after the attacks in Brussels. François Hollande gathered an urgent meeting with his ministers for assessing the situation. He told the reporters, “Through the Brussels attacks, the whole Europe was hit.” After the meeting, 1600 police officers were deployed for reinforcing the security in the train stations and airports. Manuel Valls, prime minister of France, declared, “We are at war.” He also told, “We are suffering for several months in Europe from the acts of war. And faced with this war, we need commitment at all times.”