BRUSSELS (CBSNewYork/AP) — Crowds gathered for vigils in Brussels late Tuesday as investigators continued to comb through bloody crime scenes, following coordinated attacks at the Brussels airport and a busy train station.
The Islamic State group, or ISIS, claimed responsibility for attacks in Brussels that killed 34 people and injured 214 others.
In the middle of a busy morning rush hour, two explosions hit the Brussels Airport at Zaventem and a third struck in the city’s Maelbeek metro station, which is near the U.S. Embassy and European Union headquarters.
Earlier, Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block said 11 people were killed and 81 were injured in the blasts at the airport. Brussels Mayor Yvan Majeur said at least 20 people were killed and 106 people were injured in the attack on the subway station.
Belgian prosecutors said a nail bomb, chemicals and an ISIS flag were found in a search Tuesday.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the vigils Tuesday night looked not unlike those seen in Madrid in 2004, London in 2004, or Paris in January and November of last year. But in Belgium, the nation has been on edge for months.
“It was not a big surprise; it was expected,” said one person at the vigil. “But it’s terrible.”
The Islamic State group said its extremists opened fire in the airport and “several of them” detonated suicide belts in response to Belgium’s support of the international coalition arrayed against it. The posting in the group’s Amaq news agency said another suicide attacker detonated in the metro.
Florence Muls, a spokeswoman for the Brussels Airport, said a third bomb was neutralized at the airport. Two sources also confirmed to CBS News that a Kalashnikov assault rifle was found in the terminal.
I think the sophistication of the attack has impressed or surprised people in that it was, again, a series of attacks. It was coordinated. There were secondary targets and explosions,” said U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) “So no, this was a very sophisticated operation.”
So far, three men have been identified as possible suspects in the airport bombing. Authorities in Belgium said two men in a photo issued by police were “probably” suicide bombers while a third is being sought.
— Avis de recherche (@police_temoin) March 22, 2016
Federal police have issued a wanted notice for a man seen wearing a thick light-colored jacket with a black hat and glasses. They are urging the public to call them if they recognize the man.
CBS News’ Elaine Cobbe reported the third suspect left his luggage behind and ran while the other two in the surveillance image with him are dead. The suspect’s abandoned luggage was later blown up by police.
The suspected suicide bombers were each wearing only one black glove on their left hands. Some experts speculated the purpose was to hide detonators.
Belgian federal prosecutors also confirmed they found an explosive device in an apartment in the Schaarbeek section of Brussels that was similar to the bombs used at the airport. But there were no suspects on the premises at the time.
The airport remained shut down late Tuesday, and will remain closed through at least Wednesday with no flights landing or departing.
CBS News’ Jonathan Vigliotti reported as of 10 p.m. local time in Brussels, the Maelbeek metro station where the attacks happened also remained closed. At one point, the entire system was shut down, but it was starting to come back by that time.
Police and hundreds of military troops were patrolling the streets, conducting raids and pursuing an active investigation as they searched for the remaining attacker.
The manhunt was focused on specific contested neighborhoods in Brussels, and tighter border controls were also in place, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reported.
Witnesses Describe Chaos
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, two explosions ripped through the departures hall at the main international terminal at the airport.
“I was running away from the explosion, but I thought there would be a third one,” one man said. “I didn’t know where to go.”
A ceiling caved in, and smoke, shattered windows, scattered debris, and bloodied passengers were everywhere.
“I can’t explain. It looked like warm,” said Brussels Fire Brigade spokesman Piere Meys. “It’s unbelievable it’s really hard. It’s really hard to see.”
Anthony Deloos, an airport worker for Swissport, which handles check-in and baggage services, said the first blast took place near the Swissport counters where customers pay for overweight bags. He and a colleague said the second blast struck near a Starbucks cafe.
Deloos said a colleague shouted at him to run as the blast sent clouds of shredded paper billowing through the air, and “I jumped into a luggage chute to be safe.”
One woman said she was with her daughter, who is now missing.
“My husband called the American embassy and they are looking for her too,” the woman said.
People were seen rushing through a smoky hall as they were evacuated.
“I walked through a mess, a load of stuff, glass splinters, smoke, water dripping from the ceiling,” said witness Hans Klose.
“Suddenly, about 200 to 300 people went rushing away from the security checkpoint towards the gate,” said passenger Jeffrey Edison.
“I just saw two people with heads like covered, really covered in blood,” said another. “Lots of people whose hands were covered with blood.”
The attacks came days after the arrest of the top suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, in Brussels. After his arrest, Abdeslam told authorities he had created a new network and was planning new attacks.
Most recently, police have named a new suspect, 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui, a Belgian citizen. He’s believed to be the bomb maker behind the Paris attacks.
CBS News’ Vigliotti noted that Belgium already had been on high alert after the Abdeslam was captured.
“When he was arrested, a flood of security was already in this area in the days that followed,” Vigliotti said. “Of course, as we’re now learning, that security was more of an illusion than anything else.”
Security officials in Europe have been bracing for another major attack since the Paris attacks in November of last year, but they did not expect anything so severe.
The U.S. military says one American service member and his family were injured in the attacks.
U.S. European Command says it will not release details of the injuries or the number of family members involved, due to privacy concerns. The command says that it is continuing to confirm the safety of U.S. military personnel and families in the region, including those who may be there on vacation or official travel.
The injuries bring the total to at least four Americans who were hurt in the explosions.
Mormon church officials said three missionaries from Utah were seriously injured in the airport attack and have been hospitalized.
The family of one of the Mormon missionaries, Mason Wells, spent a long day waiting to learn of his condition. He was injured in the attack, but finally late Tuesday, he called to say he was all right.
Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski have family in the Netherlands, but have been living in New York
Many have been posting about their disappearance on social media.
They were reportedly on the phone with their mother, when she heard an explosion and the phone went dead.
Four Quinnipiac University students, including three who were at the Brussels airport, are safe, according to the school.
The three students who were at the airport were traveling in Brussels while on spring break, the school said. The fourth student was studying abroad in Belgium for the semester.
The Dutch anti-terror authority said the country’s threat level was unchanged at “substantial.” It said extra security measures would be in place at the country’s airports and borders.
The U.S. Embassy in Brussels is recommending that Americans in Belgium stay where they are and avoid public transportation.
It urged U.S. citizens to monitor media reports, follow instructions from the authorities, and “take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.”
More than 200 flights to Brussels have been diverted or canceled. Airport security has also been tightened in Paris, London and other European cities.
‘We Face A Tragic Moment’
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, “what we feared has happened.”
“There are many dead, many injured,” he said. “We realize we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.”
Belgium’s king and queen said they were “devastated” by the violence, describing the attacks as “odious and cowardly.”
French officials are condemning the Brussels attacks in the strongest terms.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking after a crisis meeting called by the French president, said “we are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”
French President François Hollande said “terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted and all the world that is concerned.”
President Barack Obama, speaking in Cuba, condemned the “outrageous attacks against innocent people”
“We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing those to justice those who are responsible,” Obama said, “and this is yet another reminder that the world must unite.”
President Obama ordered flags to be flown at half-staff through Saturday to honor the victims of the Brussels attacks.
Meanwhile, after nightfall, Europe’s best-known monuments — the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Trevi Fountain — were illuminated with Belgium’s national colors in a show of solidarity.
The spire at One World Trade Center was likewise lit with Belgium’s national colors, while the Empire State Building remained dark in mourning for the night.
Other buildings around the U.S. and the world also displayed the Belgian colors, including the Willis Tower and Two Prudential Plaza in Chicago; South Station in Boston; the Orlando Eye in Orlando, Florida; the Cincinnati sign at the Duke Energy Center; the CN Tower in Toronto; the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw; the Town Council Building in Belgrade; the Burj Khalifa in Dubai; and the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – as seen via Twitter.
No Current Threat Against U.S.
Officials say there is no threat against the U.S at this time.
In New York City, the NYPD immediately responded to the attacks in Belgium, activating its Critical and Strategic response units and deploying additional counterterrorism teams to major landmarks, transit hubs, as well as other high-profile locations including the Belgian Consulate.
The NYPD said it is “closely” following the situation in Belgium with the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI.
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