Skip to main content

Soldiers kill attacker in Brussels 'terrorist' blast

Police say the 'relatively small' explosion is being treated as a terrorist attack
A soldier outside Gare Central in Brussels in June (AFP)

Belgian soldiers shot a terror suspect after an explosion rocked the central train station in Brussels on Tuesday in the latest attack to hit Europe.

Witnesses said the suspect shouted Allahu Akbar (God is Great) before setting off the blast, with initial reports saying the explosion could have come from an explosive belt. 

Subsequent accounts pointed to the blast coming from a suitcase.

Authorities reported no casualties, apart from the attacker that prosecutors said was killed in the confrontation.

Belgium's national crisis centre said the situation was under control.

The confrontation in Belgium comes a day after a man mowed down Muslims near a mosque in London, and a militant on a terror watch-list rammed a car laden with weapons into a police vehicle in Paris.

The incident happened just before 1900 GMT, causing Brussel's Gare Centrale to be evacuated. The nearby Grand Place, a major tourist destination, was also evacuated.

Social media images showed an intense yet contained ball of fire in the station's underground arrival hall.

"I went down to the mezzanine level, someone was shouting. Then he cried 'Allahu Akbar,' and he blew up a trolley," Nicolas Van Herrewegen, a railway sorting agent, told reporters.

"I was behind a wall when it exploded. I went down and alerted my colleagues to evacuate everyone. He (the suspect) was still around but after that we didn't see him."

Van Herrewegen added: "It wasn't exactly a big explosion but the impact was pretty big. People were running away."

He described the suspect as well-built and tanned with short hair, wearing a white shirt and jeans.

"I saw that he had something on him because I could see wires emerging, so it may have been a suicide vest," Van Herrewegen said.

'Under control'

About an hour after the events, the situation was "under control," the federal crisis centre said in a tweet.

Gare Centrale is largely underground, located in the heart of Brussels, a few blocks from the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis statue.

Firefighters were called to the scene after the report of the small explosion, RTBF broadcaster reported. Brussels has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck the city's airport and metro in March 2016, killing 32 people and injuring hundreds more.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed the attacks, which were carried out by the same militant cell behind the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

The country's law enforcement agencies and intelligence services came under intense scrutiny after the attacks for apparently missing a series of leads after the Paris attacks that could have led to the Brussels bombers.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.