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Live updates: Attacks in Brussels

March 22, 2016

A man holds a flyer reading “Against terrorism and hate” at a makeshift memorial in Brussels. (Aurore Belot/AFP/Getty Images)

Dozens of people were killed and many others injured after three explosions rocked the airport and a metro station in Belgium’s capital.

Here’s what we know:

  • Two explosions hit Brussels Airport and one at a metro station during the morning commute in the city.
  • The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
  • The attacks at the two locations took place a little more than an hour apart and were apparently coordinated.
  • So far, more than 30 people have died in the attacks.
  • Authorities released the photo of a suspected attacker, who is thought to be still at large.
  • The attacks came days after the key suspect from last year’s Paris attacks was arrested in Brussels.
  • Victoria M. Walker
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  • Elahe Izadi
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FBI agents and New York Police detectives will be going overseas to investigate the attacks in Belgium, according to a top New York police official.

“Because there are Americans among the casualties and U.S. persons in the attack in Belgium, that will be an FBI investigation coming out of the New York City Joint Terrorism Task Force,” New York deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism John Miller said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “We expect agents and New York City detectives, who are Task Force officers, to be gearing up to leave for that investigation overseas as early as tonight or tomorrow.”

Three Mormon missionaries from Utah were seriously injured in Tuesday’s attacks, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Miller said, “We have been in constant touch with our overseas partners, with our detectives who are in their foreign posts, in their liaison posts, who have been reporting back to us throughout the day.”

  • Julie Vitkovskaya
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  • Matt Zapotosky
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Authorities evacuated a section of Denver International Airport Tuesday while a local police department bomb squad investigated boxes that were left near the check in area, according to airport and FBI spokespeople.

The packages were later deemed not to be a threat.

The airport said in a statement that police evacuated a section on the west side of the main terminal, and vehicle traffic was stopped on the same side. Deborah Sherman, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Denver, said bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in to investigate boxes left by the check-in area near American Airlines, and when the dog alerted on something amiss, the section of the airport was evacuated.

Sherman said suspicious packages at the airport are not unusual, nor would it be uncommon for a bomb-sniffing dog to alert on something that turned out to be harmless. She said Denver police led the investigation, though the FBI was on the scene.

“It’s just out of an abundance of caution because, of course, what is going on in our world today,” Sherman said. “Nobody wants to take any chances.”

An airport spokesman said, though, that airport officials always move swiftly to investigate possible threats.

“I think this is the same reaction we would have on any day of the week,” Heath Montgomery, the spokesman, said.

The airport said in a statement that the American, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Lufthansa and British Airways ticket counters were affected and flight delays were possible.

(This post has been updated.)

  • Elahe Izadi
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The Switch has posted a heat map that shows how news of the attacks spread across Twitter.

It features tweets, tagged with location information, that included the word “Brussels” and were sent between 3 a.m. and 11 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

Source: Twitter. Made with CartoDB. (Kennedy Elliott/The Washington Post)

Source: Twitter. Made with CartoDB. (Kennedy Elliott/The Washington Post)

Read more here.

  • Niraj Chokshi
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President Obama has ordered that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff, in honor of those killed in Tuesday’s attacks. The order will stand until sunset Saturday.

“The American people stand with the people of Brussels,” he said in the proclamation announcing the order. “We will do whatever it takes, working with nations and peoples around the world, to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice, and to go after terrorists who threaten our people.”

  • Julie Vitkovskaya
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The U.S. service member wounded in the Brussels attacks is an Air Force airman stationed in the Netherlands, writes the Post’s Dan Lamothe.

The wounded airman is a member of Joint Force Command Brunssum in the Netherlands, Pentagon officials said in a statement. The command is a part of NATO, and focused primarily on providing command and control to the coalition’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

The injuries to the service member and his family were withheld due to privacy concerns.

“We are saddened by today’s attacks and extend our sincere condolences to the victims and families of those impacted,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “Our priority at this time is the safety and well-being of our airmen and their families.”

Read the full story.

  • Sarah Larimer
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Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, chief of the U.S. European Command, on Tuesday ordered restrictions to non-essential travel to Brussels, following attacks in the city.

The restrictions were described in a news release as a “precautionary measure to keep personnel and families safe.” They applied to military personnel, civilian employees of the Defense Department, military contractors and military family members.

Unofficial travel to the Belgian capital — for those on leave, on liberty and those traveling while using a special pass — was “prohibited until further notice,” according to the release. Those traveling on official business or for emergency leave needed approval, the release stated.

  • J. Freedom du Lac
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  • Julie Vitkovskaya
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the spire of One World Trade Center will stand in solidarity with others around the world displaying Belgian national colors.

“New York stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Belgium and the rest of the world in rejecting the hate and extremism behind this violence,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As we have seen time and again, when we are united, terror has never prevailed and never will.”

In November, the 408-foot spire was illuminated in blue, white and red, the French tricolors, to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks in Paris.

  • Emily Badger
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French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, left, speaks to news media in Paris. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty)

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve cautioned Tuesday night against rash theories connecting the Brussels attacks to the terrorist attacks in Paris in November that left 130 dead.

“We can say however that there’s a high level of threat throughout Europe,” Cazeneuve told television station France 2. “We have been hit, today it’s the Belgians, and other capitals could be [attacked] too.”

  • Emily Badger
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A man writes on the ground ‘Christian and Muslim equals humanity’ in tribute to victims at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) in Brussels on Tuesday. (Aurore Belot/Belga via Getty-AFP)

Muslim leaders in a country that has struggled with religious tension strongly condemned the attacks on Tuesday. The League of Belgian Imams, in a statement quoted by the local news agency RTBF, expressed solidarity and condolences for the families of the victims.

“Faced with this tragedy, the League of Belgian Imams calls for the solidarity and unity of all of the citizens of our country, all faiths,” the statement read, “to overcome this challenge and not fall into the traps set by those who want to overthrow the values of tolerance and togetherness for which we have always worked together and for which we need to invest more than ever.”

Another organization, Muslims in Belgium, condemned “acts of extreme cruelty committed against innocent citizens” and said the tragedy threatens to damage the efforts of the organization, Belgian society and Muslims throughout the country to live together.

  • Elahe Izadi
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U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday afternoon that American authorities “will do what we can to help Belgian authorities bring to justice those responsible for the attacks. ”

“At present, we have no specific, credible intelligence of any plot to conduct similar attacks here in the United States,” Johnson said in a statement. “That said, we remain very focused on the threat posed by lone terrorist actors who may lack direct connection to a foreign terrorist organization; we are concerned that such radicalized individuals or small groups could carry out an attack in the Homeland with little warning.”

He added: “We also remain very engaged in the effort to identify and disrupt foreign terrorist fighters who may seek to travel to or from the United States.”

As a precautionary measure, the Transportation Security Administration “is deploying additional security to major city airports in the United States, and at various rail and transit stations around the country,” Johnson said.

  • J. Freedom du Lac
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President Obama and his family stand during a moment of silence prior to a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s national team at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana on Tuesday. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Hours after the attacks in Belgium, President Obama attended a baseball game in Cuba and joined the crowd in observing a moment of silence.

Then, during the exhibition between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, Obama joined ESPN for an interview.

“This is just one more example of why the entire world has to unite against these terrorists,” Obama said. “The notion that any political agenda justifies the killing of innocent people like this is something that is beyond the pale. We’re going to continue with over 60 nations pounding ISIL. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those whose live have been lost and hope for a speedy recovery to those who have been injured.”

The president said he decided to attend the game even after the attacks because the “whole premise of terrorism is to disrupt people’s lives.”

He recalled the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, saying one of his “most powerful memories and proudest moments as president was watching Boston respond.” He referred to Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s defiant statement about how strong Boston was, about how the city was not going to be intimidated — “perhaps the only time America was not upset about someone cursing on TV.”

“That’s the resilience and strength we need to show in the face of the terrorists,” Obama said. “They cannot defeat America. They don’t produce anything. They do not have a message that appeals to a majority of Muslims and people around the world. What they can do is strike fear and disrupt our daily lives and divide us.”

David Nakamura 

  • Elahe Izadi
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The Washington Post’s national security correspondent Greg Miller explains why terrorists are targeting Brussels in this video below:

The Post’s Adam Taylor contributed.

  • Sarah Larimer
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NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo was at the airport in Brussels during Tuesday’s attacks, but wasn’t hurt in the explosions.

“God is good,” Mutombo wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “I am in Brussels Airport with this craziness. I am fine.”

The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren reports:

Mutombo had been in the Congo to speak at the Saving Lives Through the Prevention and Treatment of Cervical Cancer Conference, according to his foundation’s Facebook page.

“Today we bow our heads in remembrance for those who lost their lives in Brussels,” the foundation’s statement said. “And we give thanks for all of the first responders offering support, strength, and solidarity to everyone impacted by these horrible tragedies. To those who are asking for an update — Dikembe was at the Brussels airport when the bombing happened this morning, and was thankfully unharmed. Local authorities are working to move everyone to safe locations while the City navigates through this act of terror. Please join us in keeping Brussels in your thoughts and prayers.”

Read more here.

  • May-Ying Lam
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An X-ray of a person injured in the Brussels terror attacks. (Stringer/EPA)

A stunning X-ray photo shows a screw or nail embedded in the chest of a person injured during the attacks on Brussels for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. The patient in the stark image was being treated at the Military Hospital in Neder-Over-Heembeek. The person’s condition is unknown.

Multiple people also arrived at University Hospital Gasthuisberg with cuts from nails and glass, spokesman Marc Decramer said.

Injuries are being treated at 15 hospitals across Belgium, Health Minister Maggie De Block told PoliticoSo far, at least 32 people are reported dead, and hundreds are injured. 

The Red Cross says they have 30 ambulances tending to the attack sites, and 30 more waiting in the wings.

To see photos at ground zero of the attacks, click through the following photo gallery:

  • Sarah Larimer
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Seb Bellin, who played college basketball at Oakland University in Michigan, was among those injured in Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, his former college coach said Tuesday.

The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren reports:

Bellin now works for Keemotion, a company that automates filming of games, and was in the check-in line for his flight to the U.S. when the bomb exploded, sending shrapnel into his legs and hips.

“I knew he was flying into New York today because we had a call set up for Friday to discuss a player. He had just been dropped off at the airport and was at check-in when the bomb went off. He was about 100 meters from the explosion,” Kampe told The Washington Post by phone Tuesday afternoon.

“He has had one surgery and they said they got all the shrapnel out of his lower legs. He’s supposed to have another one to get the rest out of his hips.”

Read more here.

  • Julie Vitkovskaya
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Police discovered an explosive device and an Islamic State flag during anti-terrorism house raids in the Schaerbeek region of Brussels, according to a Belgian federal prosecutor.

The explosive device contained nails resembling those found in the bombs at the airport, according to French daily Le Soir. Helicopters have been circling above Schaerbeek, the same neighborhood where Salah Abdeslam‘s fingerprints were found in December, according to Le Monde.

  • Elahe Izadi
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See other world landmarksEiffel Tower lights up in Belgian flag colors after Brussels attacks

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