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Three day of mourning after Brussels deadly attack

24 March, 2016

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BRUSSELS: Belgian investigators were on Wednesday hunting a man seen fleeing Brussels airport after a suicide bombing, as the country held three days of mourning for around 35 people killed in twin attacks claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS).

Two massive suicide blasts by men with bombs in their bags hit Zaventem Airport on Tuesday morning, leaving blood and mangled bodies strewn across the check-in hall and sending terrified travellers fleeing.

At around 9am local time, an hour after the airport blasts, a third explosion rocked Maalbeek metro station, in the heart of the city’s EU quarter, just as commuters were making their way to work.

Belgian authorities launched a huge manhunt after the attacks, releasing pictures of two of the suspects pushing trolleys with their bombs through the terminal and a third man whose explosives did not go off.

Belgian state broadcaster RTBF claimed to have identified the two attackers, but this information was not verified by Belgian authorities.

The report on Wednesday said the brothers were known to police for past crimes, but nothing relating to terrorism.

Police helicopters hovered over the city late into the night and prosecutors said raids were carried out across Belgium, adding that a bomb, an IS flag and chemicals had been found in one apartment.

The fact that extremists were able to hit high-profile targets in Brussels, capital of the European Union, just months after IS militants killed 130 people in Paris, will raise fresh questions about the continent’s ability to prevent terrorism.

It also underscores doubts about how Belgium has allowed extremism to develop unchecked, coming days after key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels following four months on the run.

“This is a day of tragedy, a black day,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said, vowing the country would not be cowed by the “deadliest attacks we have ever seen in Belgium”.

Flags will fly at half mast at public buildings across Belgium for three days of national mourning through Thursday, after crowds gathered in the Place de la Bourse square to sing songs and lay flowers in memory of the dead. “People were just going to work, to school and they have been cut down by the most extreme barbarity,” Michel said. “We will continue to protect liberty, our way of life.” IS claimed the bombings, saying “soldiers of the caliphate” had carried out the attacks against “the crusader state” of Belgium.

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