At least 21 dead as blasts rock Brussels airport & metro

22 March 2016

(AFP) A string of explosions rocked Brussels airport and a city metro station on Tuesday, killing at least 13 people, according to media reports, as Belgium raised its terror threat to the maximum level.

Two explosions targeted the main hall of Zaventem Airport at around 8:00 am (0700 GMT), with a third hitting the Maalbeek metro station, near the European Union's main buildings, just as commuters were making their way to work in rush hour.

Belgian media reports said at least 21 people had been killed and 35 injured at the airport, while a reporter said at least 15 people with bloodied faces were being treated by emergency services outside the metro station.

The blasts come days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels on Friday of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in November, after four months on the run.

There were chaotic scenes at the airport as passengers fled in panic, with a thick plume of smoke rising from the main terminal building.

Witnesses told Belga news agency there had been shots and shouts in Arabic at the airport before the blasts hit at the airport on the northwest outskirts of Brussels.

"There have been two explosions at the airport. Building is being evacuated. Don't come to the airport area," the airport said on Twitter, as police cars and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene.

"All airport operations have been suspended until further notice," it said.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon announced that Belgium's terror threat had been raised from three to a maximum of four.

Airports in neighbouring France, Germany and the Netherlands as well as Britain swiftly boosted security in response.

The blasts triggered a transport shutdown in Brussels, with all flights halted in and out of the airport and the city's metro, tram and bus services suspended.

European Union staff in Brussels, where the 28-nation bloc has its headquarters, were told to stay indoors or at home.