The Latest: Russia: ‘Double standards’ led to terror attacks
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on explosions at Brussels airport and metro station (all times local):
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says the West’s politics of “double standards” have led to terrorist attacks and that frozen diplomatic relations between NATO and Russia have slowed the fight with terrorism.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has offered its condolences to Belgium and expressed solidarity after the attacks Tuesday that left scores dead.
While Russia and the United States have brokered a fragile peace agreement in Syria, the two countries still disagree on how to tackle terrorist threats posed by the Islamic State group.
Prominent Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov also had a jab at Europe and NATO following the Brussels attacks. Pushkov later offered his condolences, but said “it’s time for Europe to understand where the genuine threat is coming from and join efforts with Russia.”
Facebook has activated its “safety check” system to help people check on friends and loved ones in the aftermath of the attacks in Brussels.
The company says Tuesday the system was put in use within hours of the three explosions at the Brussels airport and a metro station.
It says the system can provide an easy way for people to mark themselves as “safe” after a major disaster or crisis so that people searching for them will know they are unharmed.
The system has been used recently to help people communicate after major floods and earthquakes as well as terrorist attacks.
A Belgian subway official says there are 15 dead, 55 injured in the subway station attack.
Spokesman Guy Sablon gave the toll to The Associated Press after two explosions hit the Brussels airport on Tuesday morning and a third hit the city’s Maelbeek metro station.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, fighting back tears, has stopped short a news conference in Jordan after saying that “today is a difficult day,” in reference to the Brussels attacks.
Mogherini was wrapping up her opening statement Tuesday at a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh when she was overcome by emotion. When Judeh resumed speaking, she walked over to him, said “sorry” and briefly embraced him. The two then walked off the stage.
Mogherini and Judeh had been speaking for about 16 minutes when the news conference ended abruptly. In her opening remarks, she had talked about the importance of her visit to Jordan, praising the kingdom’s stance against militant Islam.
Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw is calling all three explosions in Brussels “terrorist attacks.”
Two of the explosions on Tuesday morning hit Brussels’ Zavantem airport and the third struck in the city’s Maelbeek metro station. Belgian media report that at least 13 are dead, and authorities are saying there are dead at both sites.
Van Leeuw says “one attack was probably done by a suicide bomber.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says “what we feared has happened” and says authorities are worried there will be more attacks.
Speaking a news conference in Brussels, Michel says “there are many dead, many injured” from the attacks earlier Tuesday at the airport and a subway station. He says border controls have been reinforced.
Michel says “we realize we face a tragic moment. We have to be calm and show solidarity.”
Brussels police spokesman Christian De Coninck says there were deaths at the Maelbeek police station near European Union headquarters.
He says: “There are victims, serious injury, people have died. I have no idea yet on the numbers of injured or dead.”
France’s top security official said the country is reinforcing security at airports, train stations and metros after Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France immediately increased its vigilance after the attacks. France has been on highest alert since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.
Anthony Deloos, an employee of services company Swissport, said the first explosion took place near a counter where customers pay for overweight baggage. He and colleague said second blast was near the Starbucks.
“Twenty meters (yards) from us we heard a big explosion,” and shredded paper was flying through the air, Deloos said. He first thought a billboard had fallen down, but a colleague told him to run.
“I jumped into a luggage chute to be safe,” he said.
In a statement marked “aanslagen” — terror attacks in Dutch — the prosecutor’s office in Brussels has warned people to stay inside until the situation is cleared up.
After a few hours of uncertainty on the explosion during morning rush hour, it was the first official indication that indeed, they were expected to be terror attacks.
Eurostar has suspended high-speed rail service to Brussels-Midi station following the attacks at the airport and a metro station in Belgium
The rail service links London with Brussels and Paris via the Channel Tunnel.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says Belgium has “again been hit by cowardly and murderous attacks. Our hearts go out to the victims and next of kin. The Netherlands stands ready to help and support our southern neighbors in any possible way.”
Rutte says that “extra alertness is necessary, also in our country. We will take all necessary precautionary measures.” Rutte called a meeting Tuesday of his government’s Ministerial Crisis Committee to discuss the attacks.
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.
British airports are increasing security and Prime Minister David Cameron is convening the government’s emergency committee after the explosions at Brussels airport and on the city’s subway system.
Cameron said Britain would “do everything we can to help.”
Britain’s official terrorist threat level stands at “severe,” the second-highest level on a five-point scale, meaning an attack is highly likely.
Gatwick airport said that “as a result of the terrible incidents in Brussels we have increased our security presence and patrols around the airport.” Heathrow said it was working with police to provide a “high-visibility” presence on light of the attacks.
Germany’s justice minister says “today is a black day for Europe” following the attacks in Brussels.
Heiko Maas said Tuesday on Twitter that “the horrible events in Brussels affect us all.”
He added: “We are steadfastly at the Belgians’ side.”
French President Francois Hollande is holding an emergency meeting after explosions targeted Brussels airport and a metro station at morning rush hour.
The blasts came days after the arrest of the top suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, in Brussels.
Hollande is meeting with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
France remains in a state of emergency after the Nov. 13 attacks, which killed 130 people. Several attackers were also killed.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov tells Russian news agencies that authorities will re-evaluate security at Russian airports. In 2011, a suicide bombing at a Moscow airport killed 37 and injured many more.
Zach Mouzoun, who arrived on a flight from Geneva about 10 minutes before the first blast, told France’s BFM television that the second louder explosion brought down ceilings and ruptured pipes, mixing water with blood from victims.
“It was atrocious. The ceilings collapsed,” he said. “There was blood everywhere, injured people, bags everywhere.”
“We were walking in the debris. It was a war scene,”
An Associated Press reporter saw several people with facial injuries following an explosion in a Brussels metro station near European Union headquarters. At least two people were seen being moved on stretchers
Alexandre Brans, 32, who was wiping blood from his face, said: “The metro was leaving Maelbeek station when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro.”
Police say that at least one person was killed when two explosions ripped through the departure hall at Brussels airport.
“One person has died and perhaps there are several more,” said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the situation was developing.
The official urged people to stay away from the airport.
Two explosions ripped through Brussels airport Tuesday during the morning rush hour as hundreds of passengers were trying to check in. Airport authorities said the explosions caused several injuries.
Airport spokeswoman Anke Fransen said: “There were two blasts in the departure hall. First aid team are in place for help.”
Passengers were led onto the tarmac and the crisis center urged people not to come to the airport.
The explosions happened only days after the prime suspect in the Paris attacks Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels.