Closed Brussels attacks – as it happened

Isis has claimed responsibility for a series of explosions this morning.

The seemingly co-ordinated attacks come only a day after the Belgian government warned that jihadis could respond to the arrest of Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam last week.

Key developments:

  • Two explosions at Zaventem airport, one at Maalbeek metro station.
  • At least 30 reported killed, many more injured.
  • Isis claims responsibility via the A’maq news agency.
  • All flights cancelled until Wednesday.
  • Terror threat raised to highest level, multiple controlled explosions across the city.

You can follow our reporters on the ground via, this Twitter list.

Brussels travel latest:
- Airport will be closed until 6am on Wednesday.
- Metro has been evacuated.
- Bus and tram services have also been suspended.

Here’s a map showing the location of this morning’s blasts:

Eurostar services destined for Brussels are now terminating at Lille, says the train operator.

There is little hard information so far. Here is a summary of what has been reported this morning:

- Two explosions struck Brussels’ main international airport, Zaventem, at around 8am local time. Local media have quoted Belgian police saying that at least 13 people were killed and 35 injured.

- Flights have been suspended.

- A little over an hour later, there was at least one further explosion at the Maelbeek metro station, which lies at the heart of the Belgian capital’s EU quarter. Local media say about 10 people died.

- The metro network has been suspended.

- There has been no claim of responsibility. Yesterday Jan Jambon, Belgium’s interior minister, warned that jihadis could be looking for a way to counter-attack after the arrest last week of Salah Abdeslam, a suspected leader of November’s Paris attacks.

Jim Brunsden, our Brussels correspondent, says:

Staff inside the Council of Ministers, an EU institution only a short walk from Maalbeek metro station have been told not to leave the building.

A message sent round to all staff said:

“Please stay inside the buildings, don’t go out. Other staff should stay away from the area.”

There are many stark images from the blasts this morning being shared on social media. Here from the scene at the airport earlier.

Here is some video footage from the departures hall.

More footage from inside the Metro tunnel, courtesy of Sky News.

The Belgian prime minister has asked citizens to stay where they are.

Local media are quoting the Belgian public prosecutor saying the explosions were suicide attacks. No further details reported.

An EU official confirms security arrangements at the Commission headquarters:

The UK Foreign Office has issued advice for British citizens in Brussels here.
The US State Department has done the same here.

Security is quickly being tightened across Europe.

Statement from assistant commissioner of the Met, Mark Rowley – the UK’s top counter terrorism police official:

As a precaution, forces across the UK have increased policing presence at key locations, including transport hubs, to protect the public and provide reassurance. This is not in relation to any specific information or intelligence.

In London specifically, the Metropolitan Police Service has mobilised additional officers, who will carry out highly visible patrols at key locations around the Capital including the transport network.The number of officers deployed will be regularly assessed.These additional officers are deployed as part of reassurance measures.

Images are flooding in from on the ground. This from the airport earlier this morning.

And this from the scene in Maalbeek:

Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s interior minister, is speaking outside the Elysee Palace.

An additional 1,600 police officers will be deployed to airports, metro stations and other sensitive sites in France, he says. Cazeneuve says the attacks reinforce France’s case for interrogation of suspects as they enter the EU’s visa-free Schengen area, and for better intelligence-sharing among European states.

France’s has been lobbying hard on these points in recent months. It’s a key concern of European intelligence experts since Paris was struck twice last year – the ease with which jihadis move through Europe.

Lest we forget, though, there has still been no claim of responsibility for the explosions in Brussels this morning.

Passengers were evacuated from the airport shortly after the blast this morning, which hit at around 8am local time.

The Danish Prime Minister has added his voice to the chorus of condemnation and concern ringing across Europe.

Belgian police have carried out a controlled explosion on a suspicious package on the Rue de la Loi, near the Maalbeck metro station.

Here is a transport update:

- Air, rail and road links between Brussels and other European capitals have been suspended or are facing major disruption.

- The closure of Brussels airport will cause backlogs in services across Europe.
All airports are facing heightened security, particularly in the departures area.

- The Brussels metro network is shut down.

- Cross border rail services are facing major disruption with the Thalys service between Brussels and Paris suspended. The Eurostar service taking passengers from St Pancras to Brussels was also put on hold until further notice.

- Security measures are being stepped up at transport hubs across Europe.
The police presence on the land border between Belgium and France has been increased.

Le Monde, the French daily, has clarified early press reports that the border between France and Belgium had been closed. Their reporters have spoken to the Belgian interior ministry, which says the frontier was reinforced on Saturday, the day Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels. But it has not been closed.

The FT’s Christian Oliver in Brussels sends this:

Belgian transport authorities have told broadcaster RTBF that 15 people died in an explosion on a metro carriage in central Brussels on Tuesday. Fifty five people were injured, with 10 in a serious condition. Local media, citing hospitals, are also reporting that some 15 or 16 people died in an earlier attack at the city’s airport.

The Belgian prosecutor has released a statement confirming that today’s explosions were terrorist attacks.

The federal prosecutor’s office can confirm that the three explosions this morning, two at Brussels Airport and one in the subway station Maelbeek, are terrorist attacks.

The anti-terrorism section of the federal prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation.

Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister, is speaking to reporters.

He predicts that the death toll will rise to “scores”.

Military reinforcements have been deployed and borders reinforced.

Belgium has increased security at nuclear sites. (A suspect linked to the November attacks in Paris was found with footage of a Belgian nuclear official)

“I would like to call on everybody to show calm and solidarity.”

For market reaction to the attacks in Brussels, FastFT has this update.

More from Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister, courtesy of the FT’s Jim Brunsden in Brussels:

Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister, confirmed that the country had been struck by a terrorist attack this morning, describing it as a “blind, violent and cowardly” act.

Speaking to reporters, he said that a priority was to secure “other locations for which concerns still exist,” confirming that “numerous people have been killed” in the explosions at Zavantem Airport and Maalbeek metro station.

A series of additional security measures were being rolled out across the country including “reinforced border checks and specific restrictive measures for public transport.” The country has been put at the highest level of terror alert.

“We are confronted by a test, a difficult test and we have to confront this test united. It is a black moment for our country.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has sent his condolences to Belgium’s king and declared his “absolute solidarity with Belgians at this difficult time,” his spokesman said.

Other Russian officials, however, said the attacks were the result of the West’s backing of rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed regime in Syria, reports the FT’s Max Seddon from Moscow.

“You can’t support terrorists in one region or fight them in another. That’s dead-end policy,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

The FT’s Christian Oliver in Brussels has more as we try to piece together the details of this morning’s events.

Belgian prosecutors have cautioned that the situation remains confused in Maalbeek station as they are picking through deserted luggage to determine whether there is another bomb. One bag was destroyed in a controlled explosion. Prosecutors also cannot confirm whether both blasts at the airport were caused by suicide bombers. One definitely was, they say.

The FT’s Jim Brunsden reports from the scene in Maalbeek.

From the FT’s Brussels bureau chief Peter Spiegel:

Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles, the metro operator in the Belgian capital, has confirmed that 15 died in the blast on the underground, and 55 were injured:

Maalbeek metro station could scarcely be closer to the European Union’s key institutions. On a normal day, countless officials pass through the station and its environs, going about the bloc’s business. This tweet from the FT’s Alex Barker brings the point home.

French president François Hollande has tweeted his reaction, expressing his solidarity with the Belgian people adding it is Europe as a whole that has been hit.

The official Twitter feed for the city of Paris has added the Belgian flag to its profile, expressed solidarity, and says the Eiffel Tower will be lit with its colours later today.

Some reaction from Germany, via Berlin bureau chief Stefan Wagstyl:

Interior minister Thomas de Maizière says the fact that the targets were the international airport and a metro station near the EU institutions indicated that they were not aimed only at Belgium, “but at our freedom, our freedom of movement, mobility and everything that is part of the EU”.

Another visual echo of the Paris attack reaction.

Belgians are offering help to those in need via Twitter, says BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick.

This image from Le Monde is also being widely shared.

No official reaction to events in Brussels yet from the White House, John Kerry or any of the US presidential candidates, apart from one.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, has put out this comment:

My thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones, with all those affected, and with the people of Belgium. We all stand together with our Ally Belgium on this dark day. This is a cowardly attack. An attack on our values and on our open societies. Terrorism will not defeat democracy and take away our freedoms. We have decided to increase the alert state at NATO Headquarters. We remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation very closely.

A reminder of where this morning’s blasts took place.

Here is some video footage taken outside the airport this morning, moments after the explosions, via Le Figaro.

A White House said that President Barack Obama, who is traveling in Cuba, had been briefed on the situation in Brussels. This from an official, via the FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo.

US officials have been and will continue to be in close contact with their Belgian counterparts, and we will provide additional information and updates as we are able to do so.

As details continue to emerge from Brussels, here is the essential reading from the FT’s recent coverage of the terrorist threat in Europe.

The last major terrorist attack in Europe was conducted in France but seemingly devised in Belgium. In the aftermath of November’s bombings and shootings in Paris, Brussels was locked down amid fears of further outrages. But there was also deep unease among some from French and other European security officials about their Belgian counterparts’ ability to police domestic jihadi cells, as well as flows of guns and cash. Christian Oliver and Duncan Robinson of the FT’s Brussels bureau wrote this detailed account of the city’s Molenbeek neighbourhood – arguably the main source of weapons and shelter for jihadis in Europe.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was a key figure in the planning of November’s attacks in Paris, as well as previous attacks in France by jihadis based there and in Belgium. A massive manhunt following the Paris attacks tracked him down to the outskirts of the French capital. He died during an assault on the building where he was hiding. Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, profiled him.

Whether through inspiration or direction, many of the terrorist plots in Europe have their roots in the “caliphate” declared by Isis across a swath of Syria and Iraq. In a series of reports last year, Erika Solomon, the FT’s Middle East correspondent, and other FT reporters sketched a detailed picture of the Isis economy – the oil, the guns, the taxation system. The full Inside Isis Inc series is here.

The Belgian national broadcaster RTBF carries a statement from the Belgian Royal Family, describing the attacks as “heinous and cowardly” and adding that the King and Queen’s thoughts are with the victims, their families and the emergency services. it also says, contrary to earlier reports, the Royal Palaces have not been evacuated.

For an update on the market reaction to the attacks in Brussels, FastFT has this.

Some more details on tightened security in the UK, this from the Home Office:

• Enhanced searching of inbound tourist vehicles, additional opening of car boots / transit vans
• A heightened Border Force presence at ports
• Targeted Border Force presence at specific ports, with additional security checks on some flights
• Specialist search dogs deployed at key ports including St Pancras and Dover”

Belgian international footballers have been tweeting their reactions to the attacks in Brussels. The team is due to host Portugal in a week’s time.

British counter terrorism police have set up an online image and video sharing site in an effort to crowdsource intelligence on the Brussels attacks.

UK PM David Cameron, who just chaired a Cobra meeting in London, gives a statement via Sky News:

More US reaction starting to come in now.

This from GOP presidential candidate John Kasich:

And this from his rival Ted Cruz (link to full statement on Facebook):

Another Belgian favourite expresses solidarity. Cartoons of a crying Tintin are used to pay tribute to the victims of today’s bomb attacks.

Here’s a timeline of jihadi attacks in Europe.

A controlled explosion has just been carried out at Vrije Universiteit Brussel:

The Belgian Crisis Centre provides an insight into what it feels like to be in a city under lockdown.

The agency has been busy all morning offering advice to worried locals. People were early on urged not to use their mobiles, but restrict themselves to texts and social media to contact friends as the network was saturated.

The office of the minister of education has advised city schools to keep students on the premise. Meanwhile companies have been encouraged to keep their employees in their place of work – factories or offices.

There was another controlled explosion moments ago, this time at the airport.

Belgian media say it was an unexploded device.

Facebook has deployed its Safety Check feature for the Brussels attacks.

Electrabel, the energy company, says that non-essential staff at the Tihange nuclear power station have been told to go home.

Politics intruded on the horror in Brussels almost immediately.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National, has described the attacks as “Islamist barbarism” (there has been no claim of responsibility and the Belgian authorities have not identified the perpetrators).

In a statement, she said France was not immune to “lawlessness” of the sort found in Molenbeek, the quarter of Brussels regarded as a jihadi hotbed. She called for a “vast police operation” in the “neighbourhoods on the fringes of the Republic”.

Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump (but not Barack Obama) has offered a view.

The Republican presidential frontrunner reiterated his call to prohibit Muslim visitors from entering the US. “I would close up our borders,” he told Fox News. “We are lax and we are foolish.”

Ted Cruz, Trump’s nearest rival for the Republican nomination, took to Twitter too.

In Britain, where a referendum on whether to leave the EU is two months away, the anti-EU, anti-immigration UK Independence party (Ukip) has been accused of poor taste for comments on the Brussels attacks, reports the FT’s political correspondent Henry Mance.

Ukip has linked the attacks to EU border policy. The party’s defence spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP, issued a statement calling the murders “a result of Schengen free movement and lax border controls…. There are 94 returned jihadists currently living in Molenbeek, Brussels. This fact alone should alert people to the fact that open borders are putting the lives of European citizens at risk.”

Ukip’s response was described as “vile” by Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding:

Ukip supporters sought to justify Mr Hookem’s statement, pointing out that David Cameron has emphasised the security benefits of remaining in the EU. Nigel Farage, the party’s leader, tweeted:

The FT’s Andrew Byrne in Hungary (where migrants from the Middle East have been met with razor wire) sends this from Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjártó:

“No one in their right mind in Europe would question that the terrorist threat has clearly increased. If thousands continue to arrive on the continent illegally and without control – and we know nothing about who they are or what they want – then this is linked with an increase in the terrorist threat.”

“As we were entering [the next station] Maalbeek, there were multiple explosions, the lights went out and the train kind of glided. As soon as it happened, we all went to the ground,” he said. “People were crying and screaming.”

- read more from our eyewitness account here.

Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, has written this analysis of the security questions stemming from the Belgium attacks. One troubling possibility is that, if this is a response to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, it demonstrates an ability to unleash a fairly complex attack in very short order.

Here we explain the site of the bomb blasts in Zaventem airport.

A grim message from the mayor of Brussels. Identifying the victims will be a “long and difficult” process.

Demetri Sevastopulo, the FT’s bureau chief in Washington, DC, reports that Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has said that while the terrorists had struck at the heart of Europe, “their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed”.

“The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies. These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed. Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”

Barack Obama is expected to speak shortly.

In Brussels, the mobile network is still laid low.

There is still no claim of responsibility from Isis or anyone else but Syria‘s western-recognised moderate opposition movement has issued a statement.

The Syrian Coalition condemns the terrorist attacks that targeted the Belgian capital Brussels today as it condemns the attacks that targeted Ankara and Istanbul over the past few days. The Syrian Coalition stands in solidarity with the families of the victims and with the Belgian and Turkish peoples.

The Syrian Coalition reiterates it stands firmly by peoples and governments who are targeted by terrorism in the region, Europe and the rest of the world. These attacks make it imperative that we all stand united in the battle against terrorist organizations and the regimes that nurture them.

The Syrian Coalition emphasizes that for security and peace to prevail in the world, we all need to work together towards eliminating the threat of terrorism.

To confront terrorist challenges in an effective way, the international community needs to hold firm to the universal humanitarian principles based on justice and freedom as well as to support peoples in their struggle against injustice and tyranny. The international community also needs to take a firm stand against terrorist regimes given the role of the Assad regime in fuelling terrorism and its direct responsibility for the spread of terror.

There are differing reports about how many people have been killed. Yvan Mayeur, the mayor of Brussels, has said “20-odd” people died at the Maalbeek metro station. That is higher that an earlier tally of 15. At least another 11 are reported to have been killed at the airport.

US President Barack Obama is speaking in Cuba.

“This is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.”

The terrorist attack in Brussels was a co-ordinated strike in a city that has experienced one of the biggest pan-European anti-terror operations ever mounted. Alex Barker says on an intelligence level alone the attack raises disturbing questions.

Belgium has declared three days of mourning following today’s attacks.

Sam Jones, the FT’s defence and security editor, is about to start taking questions from readers on the FT’s Facebook page.

The Belgian flag flies over Downing Street this afternoon.

There are reports that one of the explosions at the airport was caused by a bomb in a suitcase. This from the Associated Press:

A US official says security officials believe at least one suitcase bomb was detonated at Brussels Airport on Tuesday morning. The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the early investigations, confirmed a statement by a Brussels official that there is also concrete evidence of one suicide bombing at the airport Tuesday as well.

US intelligence agencies had been on alert for possible attacks since Friday’s arrest in Belgium of accused Paris attacks conspirator Salah Abdeslam. But the official said it was unclear if Tuesday’s bombings were already planned and set in motion by his or another existing network, or if they were a direct response to Abdeslam’s arrest.

The official said the explosives seen in Brussels on Tuesday appear sophisticated. Investigators will examine them to see if they bear the same characteristics as those used in Paris last year.

Emoticon Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to its news service

Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, has issued a strident call for a common EU defence and security policy in the wake of the Brussels attacks. This via our Rome bureau chief James Politi:

We need a European pact, a pact for liberty and security. The European Union has to go all the way this time. We need to invest in a unitary structure for security and defence, a unitary one.

The King of Belgium will take the unusual step of addressing the nation later this evening, at 19:00 local time.

The EU’s heads of governments have issued a joint statement of solidarity with Belgium:

The European Union mourns the victims of today’s terrorist attacks in Brussels. It was an attack on our open democratic society.

Our common European institutions are hosted in Brussels, thanks to the generosity of the government of Belgium and the Belgian people. The European Union and its Member States stand firm with Belgium in solidarity and are determined to face this threat together with all necessary means.

This latest attack only strengthens our resolve to defend the European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant. We will be united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism.

A semblance of normality starting to return to Brussels.

But no flights in or out at least until the end of tomorrow

Jihadist terrorism in Europe, by numbers.

Analysts at IHS Janes have offered some thoughts on Isis’ high level of operational security in Belgium that is likely to have thwarted attempts by authorities to get a full understanding of the terror networks operating there.

The attacks come four days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, identified by French authorities as the last surviving participant in the Paris attacks, in Brussels’ district of Molenbeek. However, it is unclear yet whether the Brussels attacks were precipitated by the arrest of Abdeslam. A December 2015 guidance released by the Islamic State to militant cells operating in the West prescribes that cells in the same city should preserve their operational independence in order to mitigate the risk of information leaks. IHS assesses that several Islamist militant cells operate in Brussels, and therefore Abdeslam’s interrogation, while potentially useful with regard to information on the wider Islamic State modus operandi in Europe, might not necessarily provide critical insight into the Brussels attacks. Consequently, it is too early to speculate on whether the attacks were conducted in response to his arrest. Indeed, such a co-ordinated series of attacks would be likely to take longer than four days to prepare, although it may be the case that an existing plot was accelerated in response to the detention of Abdesalam.

Who were the terrorists? So far, beyond some unconfirmed speculation and a claim of responsibility by Isis, we don’t know.

That, needless to say, will be a critical question. Had they been to Syria or Iraq?

Were they radicalised in Europe’s jails? Or did they embrace jihad online?

Were they home-grown or recent arrivals? And if the latter, what does that do to Europe’s already febrile debate about immigration?

We’ve just heard that the Belgian federal prosecutor will hold a press conference later this evening. Perhaps that will give us the first clues as to the bombers’ identities.

The FT’s Christian Oliver in Brussels reports that two Belgian broadcasters, RTL and RTBF, citing police sources, say that at least one nail bomb was used at the airport.

Belgian police say they are trying to identify a man suspected of being one of the attackers at the airport this morning. They have issued this image, apparently taken from CCTV at the airport.

Hoteliers in Brussels are throwing open their doors.

Emoticon This is the one picture we have of the three main suspects in the airport attack. The FT’s Peter Spiegel in Brussels reports that Belgium’s federal prosecutor has just said that the two men to the left in this picture are believed to have blown themselves up. The third man – on the right, in the white jacket – is at large. (Picture: Belgian Federal Police / AFP)

Three days after the arrest of Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, Europe has a new most wanted man. He has not yet been publicly identified.

Belgian police have launched a manhunt for the surviving suspect in the airport attack. A third bomb was detonated earlier in the day in a controlled explosion, sparking speculation that it was the explosive belt of a third attacker.

Meanwhile, there is still no word on the authors of the Maalbeek Metro bombing.

Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister:

“First and foremost, these are shattered lives, lives shattered in full flow – of people who were probably travelling carefree to work or to school – and were cut down by an act of the most extreme barbarism.”

FT correspondents are delivering analysis on consequences of the attacks.

Tanya Powley, transport correspondent, reports that the attacks have have reignited calls for a rollout of full-scale security measures across Europe’s rail network and airports to stop further terrorist outrages.

Henry Mance in London and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington report that populist politicians, led by Donald Trump, have seized on the Brussels attacks.

And Peter Spiegel, the FT’s Brussels bureau chief, captures the mood in the Belgian capital.

Unlike the November lockdown, which produced dark humour and grousing about transport snarls, the images of the airport departures lounge prompted collective gasps. Some shed tears as they heard the news.

Emoticon The FT’s Peter Spiegel in Brussels reports that Belgian prosecutors announced that a search in the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek uncovered an explosive device with nails as well as chemicals and a flag of Islamic State.