This post may be slightly more personal than the previously objective pieces I have written so far, as I was present in Brussels during the terrorist attacks of last Tuesday. Thankfully I was extremely lucky, was not staying near the sites of the attacks, and was able to leave the city soon after they took place. I do not pretend to have experienced a fraction of the fear and horror that the victims themselves did, but being present in the city at the time, and knowing people who were at the sites of the attacks has given me a lot to think about and led to a great deal of personal growth over the weekend.
The Brussels terrorist attacks took place at 8am on the morning of Tuesday 22nd March 2016, a few days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, who was believed to have been involved in the Paris attacks of November 2015. It is believed the two attacks are linked, since connections have been found between all three of the suspected suicide bombers in Brussels and the terror cell which organised the Paris attacks.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that the two attacks, at the Zanventem airport and a metro station, have resulted in at least 31 deaths and 270 injured caused by a total of five men, three at the airport, one at the metro station. Frederic Van Leeuw, Belgium’s federal prosecutor, identified two of the suicide bombers as brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, the latter having already been arrested by Turkish security forces before being released by Belgium forces due to a lack of evidence proving he had any terror links. Both brothers are now known to have played a key part in the execution of the Paris attacks. Following the attack at the airport, the police uncovered the laptop of Ibrahim el-Bakraoui which contained phrases including; ‘if this goes on, ending up… in a cell’. There were two other men caught on CCTV footage at the airport, one has been named as Najim Laachraoui who detonated the second bomb, and the latter is yet to be identified. It is also believed this third man has survived the attacks after having left a bomb, which remained undetonated, at the airport and walking away. There is still one man who helped execute the attack at the metro station alongside Khalid el-Bakraoui who is yet to be identified, thus suggesting there are two attackers still at large. Further on in the day, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
It was the taxi driver who took the three to the airport who brought the police to the place he had collected them from, after having recognised them on the CCTV footage. The police found chemical products and an ISIS flag at the residence.
The resignations of Belgium’s interior and justice ministers have been refused by Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium.
The devastation that resonated through Europe on that day can be nothing in comparison to the sufferings of the people who were actually there. I was nowhere near the locations of the attacks when they occurred, I saw very little of the aftermath, and managed to leave the city soon after the attacks took place. I was lucky where others were not so, and for that I will be forever thankful. There are several things I will take away from my experience over the past couple of days, but the main lesson I have learnt is to never take anything for granted. There is not, and never will be, a reasonable explanation for these attacks, and to puzzle yourself trying to find one would be futile. Nowadays we are presented with threats in many different forms, be it a disease, road accidents or terrorist attacks. The problem is we just never know when disaster will strike.