Thu, Jun 22, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Brussels train station bomber identified

NO OTHER CASUALTIES:The suspect’s body was left untouched for hours as bomb squad experts searched the train station for more explosives and evacuated the area

AFP, BRUSSELS

A device explodes on Tuesday in Central Station’s underground mall in Brussels, Belgium.

Photo: AP / Remy Bonnaffe

Belgian security forces have identified the man who set off an explosion at one of Brussels’ busiest train stations before he was shot and killed, in the latest attack to hit Europe, authorities said yesterday.

Belgian Minister of the Interior Jan Jambon said the attack on Tuesday evening could have been much worse because the “big explosion did not happen,” adding more details about the device would be released.

Witnesses said the suspect shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) before setting off the blast, which triggered a small, but intense fireball in Central Station’s underground hall.

“The terrorist’s identity is known. We have been able to identify him,” Jambon told RTBF radio and television without giving further details.

Jambon said that police had carried out searches once the attacker’s identity was known.

There were no other casualties apart from the suspect, who was confirmed dead by prosecutors hours after the attack.

Crying rail passengers fled the station after the explosion, with memories still fresh of last year’s metro and airport suicide attacks in the city which hosts the EU and NATO headquarters.

The busy Central Station in the heart of Brussels, which sits just beside the Grand Place, one of the city’s main tourist attractions, reopened at about 8am yesterday, railway authorities said.

“This is considered as a terrorist attack,” federal prosecutors’ office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said at a news conference outside the station late on Tuesday.

The blast came a day after a man mowed down Muslims near a mosque in London and a suspected militant on a terror watchlist rammed a car laden with weapons into a police vehicle in Paris.

Brussels has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck Zavantem Airport and the Maalbeek metro station near the EU quarter in March last year, killing 32 people and injuring hundreds.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by the same Brussels-based cell behind the November 2015 suicide bombings and shootings in Paris that left 130 dead.

Initial reports said the blast at Central Station could have come from an explosive belt, but subsequent accounts suggested it may have been a suitcase on a trolley.

Van der Sypt said that at about 6:30pm there was a “small explosion.”

“The suspect has been neutralized by the military that were present at the scene immediately after the explosion,” he said.

The incident happened well after rush hour, but hundreds of passengers were still evacuated from one of Belgium’s busiest stations.

The nearby Grand Place was also cleared.

“There were people crying; there were people shouting,” said Elisa Roux, a spokeswoman for the Belgian rail company SNCB. “There was a movement of panic.”

Hours after the incident the suspect’s body remained at the scene as bomb squads searched the area.

An Agence-France Presse journalist reported that a controlled explosion was heard several hours after the attack.

Social media images showed a fireball in a nearly empty underground hall.

“I went down to the mezzanine level, someone was shouting. Then he yelled ‘Allahu Akbar’ and he blew up a wheeled suitcase,” railway employee Nicolas van Herrewegen told reporters.

“I was behind a wall when it exploded. I went down and alerted my colleagues to evacuate everyone. He [the suspect] was still around, but after that we didn’t see him,” Van Herrewegen said. “It wasn’t exactly a big explosion, but the impact was pretty big. People were running away.”

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