UPDATE, WRITETHRU: Belgian capital Brussels was targeted Tuesday with a series of terror attacks on its Zavantem airport and metro system. There are reports of at least two dozen fatalities, with transport services suspended until further notice. The attacks come only days after Salah Abdesalam, the suspected ringleader in the Paris terror attacks last November, was dramatically captured in the European administrative capital. The city is now on lockdown, with Eurostar trains to and from Brussels suspended, businesses (including cinemas) closed and residents cautioned to stay home.
Two loud blasts jolted Zavantem, with Belgian security sources speculating these were suicide attacks around 7AM local time. A further large explosion was set off at Maalbeck train station.
European networks were dominated by the attacks with French, Belgian, UK and German news channels all covering the breaking the story, which was timed to hit the start of the business day in Europe. Security has now been ramped up across the continent, including in Paris and at London’s Gatwick airport.
The attack is believed to be the worst perpetrated in Brussels since World War II. Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel appeared sombre during a press conference, declaring, “What we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks.” Both the city and the country had been on alert following Abdesalam’s capture.
The Kinepolis cinema in Brussels said it will remain closed today out of respect for the victims and also to ensure the security of customers. On its Facebook page, the UGC cinema circuit said it was closing its Brussels theaters, which include UGC Toison d’Or and UGC De Brouckère, for the day. The exhibitor said it would keep patrons abreast of the situation as it develops. Warner Bros’ Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is dated in the country tomorrow.
Social media has also kicked into full gear with Facebook’s Mark Safe function turned on to enable people to reassure loved ones of their safety. Belgium’s most famous export, the animated character Tintin, has already appeared in tweets and memes as people express their sympathies for the victims and their horror at yet another terrorist atrocity on mainland Europe.