Three days of mourning for Brussels attacks

Life has begun to return to normal in Brussels, with some public transport working and cars returning to the European district, but the metro system remains closed and the airport is still shut to travellers.


The country is observing three days of national mourning and Brussels authorities have held a minute’s silence in the city at 12pm.

The public has been laying out flowers and candles in a central Brussels square since Tuesday.

The government has given a death toll in Tuesday’s attacks on the Belgian capital, with Health Minister Maggie De Block saying on VRT television on Wednesday it’s at least 31 with more than 200 wounded.

Syrian-based Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

On Wednesday, Belgian police identified two suspected IS suicide bombers captured on security cameras before they struck Brussels airport, public broadcaster RTBF said.

RTBF, quoting a police source, named the suspected bombers as Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui, two brothers resident in Brussels and known to the security services for crime.

The newspaper DH said a third suspect seen with them before running away from the airport after the blasts was identified as Najim Laachraoui, 25, a man sought by police and directly linked to Abdeslam.

IS claimed the attacks, four days after the arrest in Brussels of a prime suspect in November’s Paris attacks.

If confirmed, the identifications would link the Brussels blasts directly to the jailed Paris suspect, Salah Abdeslam.

The Brussels suspects were photographed pushing bags on trolleys, and witnesses said many of the airport dead and wounded were hit mostly in the legs, possibly indicating blasts at floor level.

“A photograph of three male suspects was taken at Zaventem.

“Two of them seem to have committed suicide attacks. The third, wearing a light-coloured jacket and a hat, is actively being sought,” prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw told a news conference.The two men in dark clothes wore gloves on their left hands only.

One security expert speculated they might have concealed detonators. The man in the hat was not wearing any gloves.

“If you recognise this individual or if you have information on this attack, please contact the investigators,” a police wanted notice for the third man read. “Discretion assured.”

The attacks sent shockwaves across Europe and around the world, with authorities racing to review security at airports and on public transport, and rekindled debate about European security co-operation and police methods.

It also fuelled political debate across the globe about how to combat militants.

“We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world,” said US President Barack Obama.

Donald Trump, the front runner for the Republican nomination to succeed Obama in November’s US election, suggested suspects could be tortured to avert such attacks.

Brussels police searched a house in the north of the city late into the night, turning up another bomb, an IS flag and bomb-making chemicals in an apartment in the borough of Schaerbeek.

Local media said authorities had followed a tip from a taxi driver who may have driven the bombers to the airport.

Security experts believed the blasts, which killed about 20 people on a metro train running through the area that houses EU institutions, were probably in preparation before Friday’s arrest of locally based French national Abdeslam, 26, whom prosecutors accuse of a key role in the November 13 Paris attacks.

He was caught and has been speaking to investigators after a shootout at an apartment in the south of the city a week ago, after which another IS flag and explosives were found. It was unclear whether he had knowledge of the new attack or whether accomplices may have feared police were closing in.