Brussels train station explosion being treated as terror attack, suspect dead, officials say
The central train station in the Belgian capital of Brussels was evacuated Tuesday after an explosion was reported and police shot a suspect wearing an explosive belt who shouted “Allahu Akbar,” in what officials described as a foiled terror attack.
Federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said authorities are treating the incident “as a terrorist attack” that was foiled when the suspect was “neutralized.”
Prosecutor’s spokeswoman Ine Van Wymersch said early Wednesday the suspect had been lying still since soldiers shot him on Tuesday night, adding that medics were unable to attend to him for several hours out of fear he could be carrying explosives.
Van Wymersch said authorities only could confirm his death once a bomb squad had finished its work, but no one else was injured in the foiled attack, and the damage was limited.
National newspaper La Libre Belgique quoted the Brussels prosecutor’s office as saying the suspect was wearing a backpack and an explosive belt.
Nicolas Van Herrewegen, an employee at Brussels Central station, told reporters that the suspect had cried “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and detonated something on a luggage cart, Sky News reports.
Herreweghen described the suspect as a man in his 30s, who was wearing black jeans and a white shirt which has “visible wires around his waist.”
Federal police confirmed to VTM News the bomb squad conducted a controlled explosion on an explosives belt.
Brussels police said via Twitter that there was “an incident with an individual at the station. The situation is under control.”
Security officials will gather late Tuesday to determine whether the incident was terrorism or not, according to local media.
A witness to the incident, Rémy Bonnaffé, told Fox News he heard two loud bangs like an explosion at the station.
Bonnaffé said he first heard two loud bangs like an explosion, with the first bang taking place while everyone was still at the boarding platform. When the second bang took place, everyone then hid, according to Bonnaffé.
Bonnaffé told Fox News he then ran across the street to the Hilton and heard two noises that sounded like gun shots.
Bonnaffé took a photo which shows an object on fire, which he thought was a suitcase that could have been the thing that exploded.
The Belgian capital’s Grand Place, a major tourist site, was evacuated along with the station about 200 meters away, but officials stressed it was only for security reasons.
Brussels Central station has been evacuated and searched, with rail services from the station suspended. Train services at two other stations in the capital, Brussels North and Brussels South, have also been disrupted by the incident, according to Sky News.
Rail company spokeswoman Elisa Roux said Tuesday evening that trains were diverted from the station and buses sent out to take passengers to the area.
Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people on the Brussels subway and at an airport on March 22, 2016. The center that monitors security threats in Belgium says the available information so far doesn’t yet merit going to the highest possible terror alert level.
Soldiers have been stationed at railway stations, government buildings and EU institutions since the March 2016 attacks.
There have been incidents involving extremists in Paris and London in recent days, including the attack by a van driver who tried to run down worshippers outside a London mosque.