BRUSSELS — Explosions ripped through the Brussels Airport and a subway station early Tuesday, killing at least 34 people and severely injuring dozens of others.
The two explosions at the airport happened in the departure hall during the morning rush hour as hundreds of passengers were trying to check in, according to an airport spokesperson. Officials say at least 11 people were killed and 81 were injured in those explosions.
- Explosions at airport and subway station in Brussels
- At least 34 killed, dozens severely injured
- Belgian officials says explosions were terrorist attacks
- Islamic State group claims responsibility for attacks
- Belgium terror alert level raised to maximum
Not long after, a blast also rocked the Maelbeek Metro station near the European Union headquarters.
Brussels mayor says at least 20 people died in that explosion and 106 were injured.
Alexandre Brans, 32, who was wiping blood from his face, said: "The metro was leaving Maelbeek station when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro."
Islamic State group claims responsibility for attacks
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels, saying its extremists opened fire in the airport and "several of them" detonated suicide belts.
The posting in the group's Amaq news agency said another suicide attacker detonated in the metro.
The posting claimed the attack was in response to Belgium's support of the international coalition arrayed against it.
An Iraqi intelligence official says sources in the Syrian city of Raqqa have told them that the Islamic State group has been planning terrorist attacks in Europe for two months which would "target airports and train stations."
The official tells The Associated Press on Tuesday that Iraqi officials told European countries about the plans "but Brussels was not part of the plans" at the time.
He says IS militants changed the operation and moved it to Brussels "because of the detention of Salah Abdeslam" — the Paris attacks suspect arrested Friday in Brussels.
Another senior Iraqi intelligence official said "Daesh (IS) was behind this operation and it was planned in Raqqa two months ago and there are three suicide attackers who will carry out another attack."
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since the investigation was ongoing.
Police search for suspects
A Belgian prosecutor says police raids are happening around the country after two men "probably" staged suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a third fled.
Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said Tuesday that the third suspect is actively being sought by police.
A man wearing a thick light-colored jacket with a black hat and glasses is suspected of committing the attack at Zaventem airport on Tuesday morning.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said the country will tighten security at its borders. He declared three days of national mourning after what he says were probably the most tragic attacks the country has seen in peacetime.
Witnesses describe airport explosion
"It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed," said passenger Zach Mouzoun. "There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere."
"We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene.”
Anthony Deloos, an employee of services company Swissport, said the first explosion took place near a counter where customers pay for overweight baggage. He and colleague said second blast was near the Starbucks.
"Twenty meters (yards) from us we heard a big explosion," and shredded paper was flying through the air, Deloos said. He first thought a billboard had fallen down, but a colleague told him to run.
"I jumped into a luggage chute to be safe," he said.
Americans injured in attacks
The U.S. military says one American service member and his family were injured in the attacks.
U.S. European Command says it will not release details of the injuries or the number of family members involved, due to privacy concerns. The command says that it is continuing to confirm the safety of U.S. military personnel and families in the region, including those who may be there on vacation or official travel.
The injuries bring the total to at least four Americans who were hurt in the explosions that ripped through the Brussels Airport and a metro station Tuesday. Mormon church officials said three missionaries from Utah were seriously injured in the airport attack and have been hospitalized.
Brussels shuts down transportation, raises terror threat level
Authorities in Brussels shut down transportation in the wake of the explosions. Everyone in the city was told to remain where they are.
Hours after the attacks, the lockdown was lifted and train stations began to reopen.
Peter Mertens of the Belgian crisis center said "the threat is still real and serious" of more attacks.
Hours after the explosions, police say a third bomb was found at the airport and deactivated.
The airport will remain closed at least through Wednesday, an official said.
Belgium’s terror alert level was raised to maximum.
U.S. Embassy tells Americans to stay where they are
The U.S. Embassy in Brussels recommended Tuesday morning that all Americans in Belgium stay where they are and avoid public transportation.
Explosions being called terror attacks
Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw is calling all three explosions in Brussels "terrorist attacks."
Two of the explosions on Tuesday morning hit Brussels' Zavantem airport and the third struck in the city's Maelbeek metro station. Belgian media report that at least 13 are dead, and authorities are saying there are dead at both sites.
A U.S. official says security officials believe at least one suitcase bomb was detonated at Brussels Airport.
The official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the early investigations, confirmed a statement by a Brussels official that there is also concrete evidence of one suicide bombing at the airport Tuesday as well.
U.S. intelligence agencies had been on alert for possible attacks since Friday's arrest in Belgium of accused Paris attacks conspirator Salah Abdeslam. But the official said it was unclear if Tuesday's bombings were already planned and set in motion by his or another existing network, or if they were a direct response to Abdeslam's arrest.
The official said the explosives seen in Brussels on Tuesday appear sophisticated. Investigators will examine them to see if they bear the same characteristics as those used in Paris last year.
Rifles found at Brussels airport
A European security official in contact with Belgian police says least one and possibly two Kalashnikov rifles have been found in the departure lounge at the Brussels airport after the attacks.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.
Shiraz Maher, a senior researcher at The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London, calls the presence of guns in these attacks "quite significant."
At least one airport bomb contained nails
A Belgian TV station is reporting that at least one of the bombs at the Brussels airport contained nails. %
Flemish language broadcaster VTM interviewed Marc Decramer of the Gasthuisberg hospital in Leuven, who says the hospital is treating 11 people with serious injuries, three of them in critical condition. Decramer says the wounded have fractures and deep cuts caused by flying glass and nails.
Belgian officials say 34 people were killed Tuesday and 187 wounded in two explosions at the Belgium airport and one at a city subway station.
Belgium Prime Minister speaks about attacks
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says "what we feared has happened" and says authorities are worried there will be more attacks.
"What we feared has happened. We were hit by blind attacks."
Speaking a news conference in Brussels, Michel says "there are many dead, many injured" from the attacks earlier Tuesday at the airport and a subway station. He says border controls have been reinforced.
Michel says "we realize we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity."
Brussels airport releases statement
The airport released the following statement just after 6 a.m. eastern time:
At 8am two explosions have occured in the departure hall. Emergency services are on the premices and are offering the necessary assistance.
All flights at Brussels Airport today are cancelled. Passengers are requested to contact their airline for further instructions.
The airport authorities are asking to avoid the surroundings of the airport.
Passengers present in other zones at the airport are asked to remain calm and to wait until further information is available.
Questions about family or friends at the airport? Call (0032) (0)2/753 73 00
All flights have been canceled at Brussels Airport for the rest of the day.
Other countries increase security level
British airports are increasing security and Prime Minister David Cameron is convening the government's emergency committee after the explosions at Brussels airport and on the city's subway system.
Cameron said Britain would "do everything we can to help."
Britain's official terrorist threat level stands at "severe," the second-highest level on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is highly likely.
Gatwick airport said that "as a result of the terrible incidents in Brussels we have increased our security presence and patrols around the airport." Heathrow said it was working with police to provide a "high-visibility" presence on light of the attacks.
Explosion comes days after arrest of top suspect in Paris attack
French officials are condemning the Brussels attacks in the strongest terms. %
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking after a crisis meeting called by the French president, says "we are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war."
The blasts came days after the arrest of the top suspect in last year's Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, in Brussels.
President Francois Hollande says "terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted — and all the world that is concerned."
Hollande also warned that "this war will be long" so sang froid and lucidity are needed.
France's top security official said the country is reinforcing security at airports, train stations and metros.
Paris says it will light the Eiffel Tower in the colors of the Belgian flag. The city's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, described it in a tweet as a measure of "solidarity with Brussels."
France remains in a state of emergency after the Nov. 13 attacks, which killed 130 people. Several attackers were also killed.
Extra security measures in place at nearby airports, borders
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says Belgium has "again been hit by cowardly and murderous attacks. Our hearts go out to the victims and next of kin. The Netherlands stands ready to help and support our southern neighbors in any possible way." %
Rutte says that "extra alertness is necessary, also in our country. We will take all necessary precautionary measures." Rutte called a meeting Tuesday of his government's Ministerial Crisis Committee to discuss the attacks.
The Dutch anti-terror authority said the country's threat level was unchanged at "substantial." It said extra security measures would be in place at the country's airports and borders.
Hours after the attack, police in the Netherlands halted an international train from Brussels to Amsterdam at a station just one stop from the Dutch capital's busy Schiphol Airport as a precaution and are searching the train and its passengers.
There was no immediate word of any arrests and police did not say what prompted them to stop the train.
EU top official 'appalled' by attacks in Brussels
The European Union's top official says he's appalled by the attacks on Brussels' main airport and a metro near the EU's institutions and has offered Europe's support.
EU Council President Donald Tusk says Tuesday "these attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence."
He says the EU "will fulfill its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat which we are all facing."
Staff at the EU institutions near the Maelbeek metro station — where at least 20 people have been killed by a blast — been warned to stay in their offices or at home.
Cox Media Group