ISIS claim Brussels attacks, police begin hunt

People bring flowers and candles to mourn at the Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP)

ISIS claimed it had been behind the deadly bombings that tore an airport terminal and a metro station in the Belgian capital Brussels on Tuesday, which left dozens killed and over 140 wounded.

The AMAQ news agency, which is close to ISIS, said that “fighters” from the group had carried out both attacks. Police have begun making raids across different parts of the country in an attempt to round up suspects.

On early Tuesday evening, police issued a wanted notice for a man suspected of involvement in the attacks.

Calling for information they issued a photograph of a man, dressed in white and wearing a hat, as he pushed a luggage trolley.

The twin bomb attacks on Brussels airport Tuesday may have been carried out by two suicide bombers and the police are “actively looking” for a third attacker, the federal prosecutor said.

“There is a photo of three men taken at Zaventem airport and it is possible that two of them carried out a suicide attack while the third is being actively sought,” federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said, after police issued a wanted notice for the man.

Brussels police are calling on people who may have filmed images from the attacks on the city airport and subway to help assist with their investigation.

Police called in a statement late Tuesday for help from “anyone who has amateur film where the attackers may be in view and could help move their investigation forward.”

Soon after, authorities announced that police found a bomb, chemicals and an ISIS flag in their search for the suspects.

At least 14 died and 90 were injured from the explosions which hit the departures hall of Zaventem airport.

Belgian police found a Kalashnikov assault rifle next to a dead attacker at the airport, and planned to detonate a suspect package found near the scene of the blasts. Later on Tuesday, security services found and destroyed a third bomb at the airport.

Meanwhile, at least 20 were killed and 55 injured in a blast in the Maalbeek metro station.

Local media reports said that two suspects had so far been arrested.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said in response that “what we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks.”

French President François Hollande said in a televised address that “terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted.”

With trains and air routes in Belgium cancelled, a nuclear power plant in  the country was also evacuated. The Brussels airport will remain closed on Wednesday.

 While the victims of the blasts have not yet been named, a Slovenian diplomat has been injured, according to the country’s foreign minister.

The Belgium army has deployed 225 troops to the capital to deal with the threat. All public transport in the capital has been closed, and authorities have asked citizens to stay indoors.

Al Arabiya's correspondent also reported that the border between France and Belguim had been closed following the attacks. Several other European neighbours are on high alert.

Zaventem is the country's main international airport and serves 23 million passengers a year.

Social media showed pictures of smoke rising from the departure hall where all windows had been shattered by the blast. Passengers were seen running away down a slipway from the departure lounge.

According to planefinder.com, most inbound flights to the airport were being diverted for the time being. Belgian media said rail trafic to the airport was suspended.

Separate attack

Brussels transport authority said that it has decided to close all public transport in the city. The Belgian Crisis Center also told people: "Stay where you are."

Following the attacks, AFP reported that Belguim has raised its terror level to the highest level.

While the cause of the explosions has yet to be verified, Belgian broadcaster VRT reported that both attacks were carried out by a suicide bomber.

Khater Abu Diab, International relations professor at Paris University, said that suicide bombing would not be ruled out given that timing of the attacks.

Belguim has been on high alert since the arrest in Brussels last week of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in last year's Paris attacks.

“I believe that plans of such magnitude were probably planned for quite a while. These sleeper cells were probably waiting for the right time but were spurred into action following the capture and arrest of Salah Abdeslam,” Abu Diab told Al Arabiya News.

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Last Update: 08:09 KSA 11:09 - GMT 08:09
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