On the morning of March 22, 2016, the Zaventem Airport in Brussels, Belgium made international news following two suicide bombings that killed 35 and injured hundreds more. An additional bombing took place in the Maalbeek metro station, that ultimately killed seven more people in addition to the assailant of the crimes. It has been reported that 12 of the victims of the crimes were foreign visitors in Belgium, including nationals of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, and China. In light of the attacks, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant Islamic group based in the Middle East, has taken responsibility for the attacks. As the deadliest terror attack on Belgian soil, the country issued a three day period of national mourning in response to the events.
Belgium has posed an active military intervention against ISIL in the Middle East, but the country’s relations with Iraq remained strained amongst political unrest in the Islamic country. By proportion, Belgium has had the largest portion of its population of any western European country leave to fight alongside Jihadist forces; prior to the events in Brussels, it had been estimated that nearly 450 Belgian citizens had left the country to fight in Syria and Iraq.
However, the attacks that transpired last Tuesday were largely unprecedented. At 7:58 am on Tuesday morning, the two bombers approached the main terminal of the Zaventem Airport alongside a third man who has yet to be identified. The two bombers have been identified as Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui. Each man was seen on China Central Television footage pushing a luggage trolley that held the bombs. After the bombers had entered the main terminal of the airport, two blasts occurred that ultimately killed the bombers, bystanders in the area, and injured many more. It is believed that the unidentified man was able to flee the scene; however, police encountered a third, larger bomb that detonated after security forces were able to secure the scene. Nobody was hurt in the third blast.
An hour after events had transpired, another blast occurred at the metro station at the airport. Authorities have identified the perpetrator of the metro station as Khalid El Bakraoui, and it is believed that he also had a partner. El Bakraoui was identified by authorities based on his fingerprints, but authorities are unsure of whether or not his accomplice fled the scene or died in the blast. The perpetrator entered the second car of a train just as rush hour was finishing, and detonated his bomb inside.
In light of the events, Belgian officials have made several arrests concerning the third man who managed to flee the scene during the airport bombings. Initially, freelance reporter Fayçal Cheffou was arrested in connection to the bombing, but as of Monday, March 28 he has been released from Belgian custody. In response, Belgian officials have reinstated the manhunt for the third perpetrator of the crimes. However, police have been hesitant to declare Cheffou as innocent, and they have stated that he is no longer needed in custody.
The events in Belgium have been marked as a national tragedy for the European country, and police have not yet completed their investigation.