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Attacks in the airport and metro in Brussels: what we know from Belgium

People outside the Brussels airport, where an explosion killed 11 people Tuesday morning.
People outside the Brussels airport, where an explosion killed 11 people Tuesday morning.
AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

This post was last updated Friday, March 25.

Three explosions, including at least one suicide bombing, shook Brussels during the morning rush hour Tuesday, March 22, injuring more than 270 people and killing at least 31.

"We dreaded an attack, and it has come," Belgium's prime minister, Charles Michel, said at a news conference, adding that there were "many killed, many injured."

The Amaq News Agency, which supports ISIS, said in a statement on its website that "Islamic State fighters" carried out the bombings.

On Wednesday, Belgium's federal prosecutor identified the suspects as two Belgian brothers with criminal records, Khalid el-Bakraoui, 27, and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 29, as well as a third man, who they did not identify, who is still at large. Ibrahim el-Bakaraoui was killed in the suicide bombing at the airport, and Khalid el-Bakraoui was killed in the suicide bombing in the metro.

The attacks come days after a police raid culminated in the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, who is accused of being involved in the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, in Belgium.

What we know

The location of the attacks. (Javier Zarracina/Vox)

  • Two explosions hit the Zaventem airport in Brussels around 8 am local time (3 am Eastern) in the departure area. One was in the entryway and the other near the American Airlines ticket counter. Both were suicide bombings.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

Javier Zarracina/Vox

  • The explosions at Maelbeek were on a metro car, part of a three-car train that had just pulled out on its way to the next station. The metro explosion alone killed 20 people and injured 106, 17 of them seriously, according to Yvan Mayeur, the mayor of Brussels.
  • A third bomb was left at the airport and safely deactivated, according to the Associated Press. The bomb, in a suitcase, contained the biggest explosive charge; it exploded right after the bomb squad arrived.
  • Two brothers, Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, committed the suicide bombings in the airport and subway, according to Belgian authorities. They were identified by their fingerprints.
  • Both brothers had criminal records in Belgium, according to the New York Times: Ibrahim for attempted robbery and Khalid for carjacking.
  • The ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency attributed the bombings to "Islamic State fighters": "Islamic State fighters opened fire inside Zaventem Airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maalbeek metro station."
  • Belgian police released video from the airport that showed three men, allegedly the attackers, pushing luggage carts. The man in the center is Ibrahim el-Bakraoui. The man to his left has not been identified but is tThey are searching for one of the men, who is wearing a dark hat and light jacket in the photo:

What we don't know

  • The final total of those killed or wounded in both attacks.
  • The attackers' relationship (if any) with the Islamic State.
  • Whether the el-Bakaraoui brothers have been sought by Belgian police since March 15, as some reports claim, and if so, why the authorities weren't more aggressive about enlisting the public to help find them.
  • If Najim Laachraoui, a suspect linked to the Paris attacks, was also involved in the Brussels bombings, and, if so, what his role was.
  • The identity of the man the police are searching for and his involvement with the attack.

    President Obama comments on the terrorist attack in Brussels

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