Explosions at Airport and Subway Leave ‘Numerous’ Dead in Brussels

Image: http://expert.ru/data/public/507351/507362/04.jpg

Image: http://expert.ru/data/public/507351/507362/04.jpg

BRUSSELS — A series of deadly terrorist attacks struck Brussels on Tuesday, with two explosions at the city’s main international airport, and a third in a subway station at the heart of the city.

According to news agencies, 13 people were killed at the airport, and 15 in the subway bombing, while 30 others were wounded. Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said there were “numerous” dead. “We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened,” he said. At least one of the two explosions at the airport appeared to have been set off by a suicide bomber, officials said.

The attacks, a vivid illustration of the continued threat to Europe, occurred four days after the capture on Friday of Europe’s most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam. Mr. Abdeslam is believed to be the sole survivor of the 10 men who were directly involved in the attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris on Nov. 13.

Mr. Michel issued an extraordinary appeal to the population to “avoid all movement,” as the authorities braced for possible further attacks.

The French government ordered 1,600 extra police officers to patrol the nation’s borders, including at train stations, airports and ports. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called an emergency meeting of ministers.

The attacks put the Belgian capital in a state of virtual lockdown. All flights were canceled for the day. All subway, tram and bus travel was shut down. Eurostar canceled its trains connecting Brussels with Paris and London. Thalys, which runs high-speed trains linking dozens of cities in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, suspended service. Cellphone lines were jammed as panicked travelers and Belgians tried to make calls.

The events on Tuesday began with a pair of explosions at a departure hall at Brussels Airport, in the town of Zaventem, about seven miles northeast of the city center, just before 8 a.m.

“We were going to check in around 7:30 a.m.,” said one traveler, Ilaria Ruggiano. “There were seven of us. We were a bit late. We heard a big noise and saw a big flash. My mother went to the floor — she was hit. I just dropped my luggage and went to the floor. A kid came out, bleeding a lot. I tried to help him with a tissue, but it was not enough. There were two bombs.”

Another passenger, Jérôme Delanois, said he was at an Internet cafe near the Delta Air Lines counter when he heard a thunderous noise. “There were two explosions — one big one and one little one,” he said. “The first one blew all the walls and everything. There were burning flames. The first one was bigger. It blew out all the windows.”

Belinda How, a traveler from Malaysia who was in Brussels for a vacation, said she had been lining up to check in for an Etihad Airways flight when she heard the blast. “I was the last passenger queuing up,” she said. “I was very close to the first blast. Everybody was screaming.”

She added: “I said to my son — he is a Down’s syndrome special-needs child — ‘You have to run.’ He said, ‘My leg hurts.’ I think he was panicked. I left my luggage, dragged him and ran. Before I ran out, there was another bomb.”

Alan Merbaum, who had flown in from Washington, said he had narrowly avoided the blast.

“I heard what sounded like a thud a minute or so before 8 a.m.,” he said. “It sounded like it could have been something dropped off the back of a truck. Ten to 20 seconds later, I heard a loud explosion and I immediately knew what it was. I saw smoke coming out of the front entrance of the airport.”

Photographs posted online showed passengers covered in blood and soot, looking stunned but conscious. Some passengers were seen being taken away on luggage carts.

Other images posted on social media showed smoke rising from a departure hall, where the windows had been blown out, and people running away from the building. Hundreds were herded outside.


Around 9:10 a.m., another blast shook the Maelbeek subway station in downtown Brussels, not far from the area that houses most of the European Union’s core institutions, according to the Belgian broadcaster RTBF. The Brussels transport authority said on Twitter that all subway stations were closing.

“We felt a boom, we felt the building tremble,” said Henk Stuten, 50, who works for the European Commission in an office above the station. “We saw through the windows that people were rushing out of the metro exit.”

About 10 to 15 minutes later, the office was evacuated, Mr. Stuten said. Some people were “very calm,” others were “very emotional,” he added.

He said most of the wounded were on Rue de la Loi, outside the station.

“There were colleagues who just five minutes before were in the metro,” he said. “You realize how close these things can come to you.”

Christian De Coninck, a spokesman for the Brussels police, told reporters near the Maelbeek subway station that several people had been killed, but he did not have a number.

Mr. De Coninck was unable to say how many blasts had taken place at the station. He appealed to everyone in the area to stay indoors to avoid getting in the way of the emergency services.

Earlier in the morning, police officers taped off the numerous streets leading to the subway station as emergency vehicles raced to the blast sites.

Ambulances were clustered around the entrance, next to the normally busy Rue de la Loi, which runs through the heart of the so-called European quarter.

A police helicopter patrolled above the station.

“For the moment, what we know is that there was at least one, possibly two explosions; we are still investigating,” said Sandra Eyschen, a spokeswoman for the Belgian federal police. “There are several injured, we don’t have any exact numbers, and, unfortunately, it appears there are some dead, at least one person.”

Belgium quickly raised its threat status to the maximum level, The Associated Press reported, citing the interior minister, Jan Jambon.

A number of flights destined for Brussels that were in the air at the time of the blasts were being diverted to other airports, said Kyla Evans, a spokeswoman for Eurocontrol, the agency that coordinates air traffic for the region.

Belgium has emerged as a focus of counterterrorism investigators after theattacks in Paris in November that left 130 people dead.

On Monday, the Belgian authorities asked for the public’s help in findingNajim Laachraoui, 24, who they identified as an accomplice of Mr. Abdeslam. The authorities are also searching for Mohamed Abrini, 31, who was filmed with Mr. Abdeslam at a gas station on a highway to Paris two days before the Nov. 13 attacks.

In: nytimes

Las relaciones con Rusia provocan la primera tormenta política sobre Grecia

Los servicios de seguridad europeos escrutan la cercanía de varios ministros al Kremlin. La UE maniobra para suavizar el veto griego a las sanciones a Rusia.


Colosal error de cálculo o as en la manga a la hora de defender estrategias de negociación en Europa. Entre estos dos extremos basculan las explicaciones que se dan en Atenas al primer movimiento diplomático del Gobierno de Alexis Tsipras, decididamente pro-Rusia, lo que ha desatado la primera tormenta política sobre el nuevo Ejecutivo.

El lunes, nada más tomar posesión como primer ministro, la oficina de Tsipras lamentó que la Unión Europea hubiera incluido a Grecia sin consulta previa en un comunicado que instaba a Moscú a aplicar los acuerdos de alto el fuego de Minsk en el este de Ucrania, y amenazaba con nuevas sanciones. El martes, el número tres de Exteriores dijo que “Grecia no está de acuerdo con el espíritu de las sanciones”, mientras el mismo ministro de Defensa, Panos Kamenos —líder del partido de derecha nacionalista que apoya a Syriza—, abría la puerta “a una mayor colaboración con Rusia en la compra de armamento”. El miércoles, el superministro de Reconstrucción Productiva y Energía, Panayiotis Lafazanis —único representante en el Gobierno de la facción más izquierdista de Syriza—, declaró: “Estamos contra el embargo impuesto a Rusia”.

A todo ello se suma un gesto no por simbólico menos importante. Hasta ahora, el primer embajador que se reunía con el nuevo primer ministro griego era el norteamericano (EE UU tiene una importante base militar en el país, en la isla de Creta; vital para la cobertura del Mediterráneo oriental). Tsipras rompió con esa tradición el lunes, al elegir al embajador ruso en Atenas, Andrei Maslov, para su primer contacto diplomático. Nada pudo entusiasmar más a los medios rusos, unánimes en los titulares: “Grecia da una lección de democracia a Bruselas” o “Syriza es el nuevo aliado de Rusia”. Dos días después, el presidente Barack Obama llamaba por teléfono a Tsipraspara para reiterarle la “tradicional alianza” entre ambos países.

Las relaciones de Grecia con Rusia vienen de lejos, pero nunca habían alcanzado este protagonismo. El año pasado, durante su gira internacional como candidato a presidente de la Comisión Europea, Tsipras visitó en mayo Moscú, donde clamó contra “la presencia de neonazis en [el Gobierno de] Kiev” —el mensaje oficial de los prorrusos de Ucrania y de Moscú— y denunció las sanciones contra el Kremlin. En el viaje le acompañaba su actual ministro de Exteriores, Nikos Kotziás, procedente del Partido Comunista de Grecia (KKE, afín a Moscú). El nacionalista Kotziás mantiene una buena relación con el también nacionalista radical Alexander Duguin, uno de los ideólogos del eurasianismo —y próximo a Vladímir Putin—, a quien ha invitado a la Universidad del Pireo, donde Kotziás era profesor de Relaciones Internacionales.

Pero no es el único que frecuenta Moscú, también lo ha hecho Panos Kamenos. Tanto este como Kotziás han sido cortejados por el círculo más íntimo del Kremlin, donde figuran algunos de los nombres que tienen prohibido viajar a la UE y EE UU por las sanciones. Estas relaciones peligrosas —Dugin es muy conocido entre los radicales populistas europeos— están bajo la lupa de los servicios de seguridad europeos.

De todo lo dicho se desprende “la preocupación” con que el presidente del Parlamento Europeo, Martin Schulz, visitó este jueves Atenas. En la reunión que mantuvo con Tsipras se abordaron “todos los temas europeos”, incluidas la crisis de Ucrania y la postura hacia Rusia, el único asunto en el que, según fuentes de Exteriores, Tsipras y Schulz no se pusieron de acuerdo. “Estamos trabajando para evitar una ruptura de la UE y Rusia”, apuntó por su parte Kotziás en Bruselas.

“Me sorprende muy negativamente esta actitud del Gobierno hacia Rusia, porque aleja a Grecia de Europa en un momento crítico. Antes de que hayan empezado las negociaciones con la troika, el Gobierno de Tsipras ya ha creado una seria divergencia”, subraya el profesor Dimitri Sotirópulos, de la Universidad de Atenas. “No creo que Grecia vaya a cambiar sustancialmente su discurso pero sí va a utilizar este asunto como herramienta para sus negociaciones. Tsipras quiere ampliar su agenda internacional y abrir otros frentes para poder negociar con Bruselas; algo así como decirle a la UE “ya tienen bastantes problemas con nosotros, pero podemos crearles más”, explica Kostas Pliakos, editor de Internacional del diario Eleutheros Typos. “Las relaciones con Rusia son un tema tabú, porque EE UU aún está muy presente en este país; pero Rusia, por cuestiones estratégicas y energéticas [el trazado del gasoducto alternativo a South Stream], interesa mucho más”, concluye.

En: internacionalelpais

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