Brussels attacks: Scores remain critical after bombings

  • 24 March 2016
  • From the section Europe
Broken windows of terminal at Brussels international airport. March 23, 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brussels international airport remains closed following the blasts

Scores of people remain in intensive care following Tuesday's suicide bomb attacks in Brussels that left 31 people dead, Belgium's health minister says.

Maggie de Block said that of about 300 wounded people, 61 were still in a critical condition, and suggested that the death toll could rise further.

Earlier, prosecutors confirmed they had identified two of the four attackers as brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui.

Two other attackers have yet to be named. One died, another is on the run.

Brahim el-Bakraoui blew himself up in the attack at Zaventem airport that killed 11 people, while Khalid struck at Maelbeek metro, where 20 people died, prosecutors said.

Unconfirmed reports say another of the airport attackers was the wanted jihadist Najim Laachraoui, whose DNA was found on explosives linked to last year's attacks in Paris.

The third suspected airport attacker has not been identified yet.

Meanwhile, Belgian broadcaster RTBF said a second person was believed to have been involved in the suicide attack on the metro, without giving further details.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it was behind the attacks.

EU interior and justice ministers are due to hold a crisis meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss their response to the bombings.

More about the attacks

What we know so far

From Paris to Brussels: Why the attacks are linked

Why was Brussels attacked?

Victims and survivors

Ms de Block said in a statement (in French) that the injured were from 40 nationalities, and 150 were still being treated in hospitals across Belgium.

Many are suffering from burns or wounds normally seen on a battlefield, such as shrapnel injuries. The death toll, the statement said, was still "provisional".

Ms de Block added that four patients were in a coma and had not yet been identified, which was delaying the process of naming victims.

Belgium's king and queen visited the airport on Wednesday and also met some of those injured in the attacks. A minute's silence was held at midday.

Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said Brahim el-Bakraoui had been identified as the middle of three suspects caught in a CCTV image at the airport.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The airport CCTV image. The man on the left has not been officially identified and is believed to have died. Brahim el-Bakraoui is in the middle and was also killed. The man on the right has not been identified and is on the run

The man on the left is believed to have died at the airport. The man on the right, wearing the hat, is thought to have fled the scene.

Mr Van Leeuw said the man in the hat had left a bag containing "the biggest bomb", which later partially exploded after police had evacuated the terminal, injuring no-one.

Reports in Belgian and French media suggest the man on the left is Najim Laachraoui, but this is not confirmed. Analysts say Laachraoui is believed to be a key bomb maker.

Mr Van Leeuw said a taxi driver had told police he had picked up the three men from an address in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels.

The apartment was raided later on Tuesday and bomb-making materials, including 15kg (33lb) of high explosive, were found.

A note from Brahim el-Bakraoui was found in a nearby rubbish bin. In it, he wrote: "I'm in a hurry (...) they're looking for me everywhere. I'm not safe any more. If I give myself up they'll put me in a cell."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption World landmarks, including London's National Gallery, have displayed the Belgian flag in tribute to the victims

Mr Van Leeuw said the brothers, who were Belgian nationals, were known to police and had criminal records. They were identified by DNA records.

RTBF quoted a police source saying that Khalid el-Bakraoui had used a false name to rent a flat in the Forest area of Brussels where police killed a gunman in a shootout last week.

It was during that raid that detectives found a fingerprint of Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the Paris terror attacks of 13 November.

He was arrested in a raid in Brussels last Friday.

Media captionBelgian prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw: 'We found bomber's written testament'

Turkey said on Wednesday that Brahim was detained by Turkish officials on the border with Syria in June 2015 and deported to the Netherlands.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Belgium had "ignored our warning that this person is a foreign fighter".

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said he was aware that the suspect had been deported from Turkey but denied that he had been flagged as a possible terrorist.

Belgium has raised its terrorism alert to the highest level, and its international airport will remain closed until Saturday.

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