Belgian capital Brussels was the witness of a horrific terror attack early on Tuesday morning. At least 31 people were killed with hundreds wounded after suicide bombers detonated two home-made explosive devices at the airport and a metro station near the main EU locations in the city.
The airport and public transport were shut down immediately, with local law enforcement starting a manhunt for a suspect, and conducting several raids in the aftermath of the deadly attack.
ISIS claimed the responsibility for the attacks in Brussels hours later, using online channels affiliated with the group.
Police have already identified suspects responsible for the bombings, RTFB reports, including brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui, who were known to authorities for criminal activities. A third suspect is apparently on the run, having freaked out at the airport. His name is Nazim Laachraoui, and he’s the subject of an international manhunt.
Belgian police think that the two men on the left in the photo above detonated their explosive devices while the third one fled.
“They put the suitcases in their trolleys. The first two bombs exploded,” the mayor of Zaventem, Francis Vermeiren, said. “The third one also put his suitcase on a trolley, but he must have panicked, the bomb did not explode.”
Belgian news site VRT says the airport bombings suspects tried to fit as many as five suitcases with explosives in the taxi that took them to the airport, but had to leave two of them behind because they did not fit in the car. The taxi driver told the police where he picked the men up from, and authorities apparently found another explosive device filled with nails, chemicals, and an ISIS flag in a raid in Schaerbeek.
Numerous raids were conducted in Brussels and across Belgium, but it’s not clear whether they were successful.
According to NBC News, Belgian police also found a bomb-making factory, complete with equipment necessary to create the kind of suicide explosive devices the assailants used in the attacks.
“I can understand that people are scared,” Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told NBC News. “But I can say that our services are now in a high state of alert and are working day and night to arrest these guys.”
The attacks on Brussels aren’t necessarily linked to the arrest of one of the masterminds behind the Paris attacks. Salah Abdelslam was captured a few days before yesterday’s tragedy, and authorities say that he’s cooperating with authorities – that’s why the Brussels attack, which was probably in motion when he was captured, may have been sped up.
Finally, NBC also says that terrorists used a highly volatile explosive called “Mother of Satan,” and the fact the suspects used it without accidentally blowing themselves up is a testament to their skill in building home-made explosive devices. The same explosive was used in the Paris attack and the 2005 London transit bombings.
Triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the explosive used in the attacks, can be made from products available at drug stores and acid, requiring the distillation of hydrogen peroxide in large quantities.
“To make an effective bomb from it requires so much material that it isn’t often used,” European terrorism expert Duncan Gardham said. “It also requires an electronic detonator that is not easy to come across.”