By: Max Creager ~Staff Writer~
Two bombs went off in the Zaventem airport in Brussels at 8 a.m. Tuesday, followed by another explosion an hour later in the Maelbeek metro station near the European Union headquarters.
It is estimated that the airport attacks left 14 dead and 81 injured and the subway attacks left 20 dead and 100 injured.
Among the injured in the airport terminal were nine Americans, including a U.S. service member and five members of his family.
The two explosions in the airport took place in the departure hall after reports of shots being fired and shouts in Arabic.
Later it was confirmed that an AK-47 was found in the airport terminal.
Official sources say that at least one of the bombs set off in the airport was a suicide attack.
Later a third bomb was found undetonated on the airport premises, and security services destroyed the device. The third bomber is still at large, with investigators working to track down the suspected bomber on the run.
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed credit for the attacks, issuing a statement through the Amaq Agency.
The statement said that Belgium is, “a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State.”
Speculation emerged about whether the attacks were linked to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, who was arrested in the Belgian capital.
These speculations aren’t confirmed, but come at a time of continued threats from ISIS that they established terrorist “cells” within the European Union (EU).
Terrorist cells are groups of terrorists who divide power amongst themselves in smaller, concentrated groups in order to more effectively organize attacks. Typically three to five terrorists belong to individual cells.
Threat levels ramped up around the EU and in the U.S. in response to the attacks, and Belgium’s terror level went up to four, its highest level.
The increase in security means that soldiers can be sent into residential areas and city streets to meet security needs.
New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles have increased security presence at airports and high-traffic areas, and the British government has increased police presence at ports, airports, tube stations and international train stations.
In response to the attacks, 39 heads of European states issued a joint statement.
“The European Union mourns the victims of today’s terrorist attacks in Brussels. It was an attack on our open democratic society … This latest attack only strengthens our resolve to defend the European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant. We will be united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism.”
Heads of state around Europe and the war have issued statements condemning the attacks including the most forthright from French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
“We are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war,” Valls said early Tuesday morning.
The future of immigration policy for the EU seems to be thrown into question after the attacks in Paris and in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on March 13.
In Turkey, a car bomb exploded leaving at least 40 dead and more than 100 injured. European officials are rushing to make sure they can maintain the borders and security of the EU, and many have claimed, including U.S. foreign policy analyst Ian Bremmer, that terror attacks should not come as a surprise.
“These terrorist attacks that hit the airport and the metro, not a surprise sadly, they have been expecting and been on highest alert,” Bremmer said. “We have now seen a number of significant terrorist attacks across Europe … we’re going to see more of it over the course of this year.”
Details of the investigation are continually in development, however some are sensitive. In response to CNN’s status update request in regards to the manhunt for the third bomber, Belgium’s interior minister Jan Jambom said, “It’s very dangerous to give details from the investigation because what we don’t want is to alert, maybe, terrorists that are still active in this country.”