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23 March 2016

Two brothers named as the Brussels bombers for attacks that killed 34 people

Zavantem airport blasts killed at least 11 while about 20 died in an explosion at Maelbeek metro station.

By New Statesman

Explosions at an international airport and metro station in Brussels killed 34 people on Tuesday 22 March. Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks.

It is thought that there were three attackers behind the three blasts. Two of the suicide bombers have been named in Belgian media as brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui. A third, surviving suspect, Najim Laachraouiis, has been named. Belgian media has been reporting that he has been arrested, but Reuters is reporting that the person detained was someone else.

If the perpetrators turn out to be from the same network as the Paris attackers, this could be the first time in Europe that two big attacks were carried out successfully by the same terrorist network.

The departures area at Zaventem airport was struck just after 8am by two separate blasts, and emergency services have completely cleared the airport. A false ceiling collapsed, covering people with debris. The Belgian health minister stated that 11 people died, and 81 were injured, at the airport. An AK-47 was found in the airport departure hall, according to Belgian state broadcasters.

Another explosion took place at the Maalbeck metro station near the EU building. The Brussels transport authority has stated that 15 people were killed, and 55 wounded, in this blast. The whole metro system is now on lockdown. 

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The attacks come four days after the capture in the city of Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the November 2015 Paris bombings. Belgian media reports that the federal prosecutor in the case has confirmed that the airport explosion was a suicide attack.

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David Cameron expressed his shock and concern at the events on Twitter:

He chaired an emergency meeting of COBRA yesterday morning in light of the attacks. The terror alert level in Belgium has been raised to 4, the highest possible.