Explosions rocked the capital city of Belgium on Thursday, March 24, 2016, leaving 38 dead, including the three bombers, and 340 injured. The attack was carried out by five men with reported links to the Islamic State. In the chaotic aftermath of the Brussels attacks, news sources have been flooded with varying information, but here are the facts that people need to know.
On the morning of March 24, five men split into two groups. One group of three and one of two. Surveillance footage, at the Zaventem Internation Airport, caught three of the suspects entering the terminal with a luggage cart at 7:55 a.m., GMT. Three minutes later, at 7:58 a.m., the first explosion shattered the morning calm.
NBC reported that one assailant fled the terminal and shortly before the bomb squad arrived there was a second blast. This second blast was attributed to the volatility of the explosive compound and not detonation. At 8:20 a.m. rescue crews were hard at work and Zaventem Airport closed off transportation lines to and from the area.
A little over two hours after the first explosion, at 9:10 a.m., the second group of terrorists detonated a third bomb inside of a subway train. The explosion shattered the second car, of a three carriage train, heading from Maalbeek Transit station toward the Arts-Loi. This area of Brussels is home to many important European government buildings, including the European Commission and offices of the European Council.
Over the next several hours, actions were swift, as emergency protocols in Belgium and France were enacted. Brussels shut down its entire public transportation system. Facebook activated its safety check service. French police were sent to the border of Belgium to monitor incoming transportation. And reports of the dead and wounded had just begun.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks at 3:20 p.m., stating the attackers used suicide belts.
The world watched in horror, as the aftermath of the Brussels explosion unfolded. People were dumbfounded at such unspeakable acts and could not understand why they were happening. Numbers of the dead and wounded have fluctuated over the days since the attack, but the DG Crisis Center most recently reported 38 dead and 340 wounded. Of the 38, only 28 have been identified, as of March 28. Belgium will mourn the loss of 13 of its citizens. Among the foreign nationals, 11 have been identified.
As the bodies were being identified, it was reported that American citizens were among the dead. An American couple, Stephanie and Justin Shults, were identified Saturday, March 26. The couple was living abroad, in Belgium and were at the airport dropping off Stephanie’s mother, for her flight. After saying goodbye, the couple was leaving when the first bomb tore through the terminal.
According to NBC, several Americans were among the injured. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints confirmed three of their missionaries were seriously injured in the attacks. Their names are Richard Norby, 66; Joseph Empey, 20; and Mason Wells, 19. It was confirmed by U.S. European Command that an American Air Force officer, his wife, and four children were also injured in the airport attack.
Only three of the five suspects have been identified; Brahim el-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui have been identified as two of the three who carried out the bombing of Zaventem Airport. The third accomplice, who fled, was identified as Faycal Cheffou but he was released, due to lack of evidence. Khalid el-Bakraoui, the brother of the airport attacker, was the only one identified out of the two subway bombers. The whereabouts of the second attacker is still unknown.
The quiet and average morning of March 24, came to a shattering pause, as people witnessed the devastation of terrorism. People all over the world watched the aftermath of the explosion in Brussels and as news circuits flooded with information they needed to sort out what had happened and what would be done next. Results of the dead and wounded are still coming in, and identification of the bodies has been slow. Belgian officials are working diligently on this investigation and updates are ongoing.
By Harrison Baker
Edited by Jeanette Smith & Cathy Milne
BBC News: Brussels explosions: What we know about airport and metro attacks
DG Crisis Center: 16h30 – Provisional results of the victims of
NBC News: Brussels Attacks: Timeline of the Events in the Belgian Capital
NBC News: New York-Based Siblings Killed in Brussels Were ‘Sweet And Wonderful’
Washington Post: Missing U.S. couple died in Brussels attacks, family says
Image Courtesy of Estitxu Carton’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License