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Terror attacks


Swiss president extends sympathy to Brussels victims


A soldier stands near broken windows after explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels (Reuters)

A soldier stands near broken windows after explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels

(Reuters)

Johann Schneider-Ammann, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, has tweeted a message of sympathy to the victims of Tuesday’s explosions at Brussels airport and the underground system. At least 34 people have been killed and more than 200 injured. 

“Switzerland is deeply touched by the events today in Brussels. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families,” he wrote.

In a statement read to the media on Tuesday afternoon, Schneider-Ammann said that in the name of the cabinet and the Swiss people he condemned the attacks in the strongest terms. 

Switzerland and Europe stood for freedom, safety, rule of law and democracy, he said. “We will always uphold and defend these values.” 

He said he had no information about any Swiss victims or about any direct threats to Switzerland.

Suicide bomber

Two explosions ripped through the departure hall at Brussels Zaventem airport at around 8am local time on Tuesday, minutes apart.  

Belgium’s federal prosecutor confirmed that one of the explosions at Brussels airport was carried out by a suicide bomber. 

An explosion was also reported about 30 minutes later at Maelbeek metro station, which is located 500 metres from European Union buildings. A Brussels transit spokesman told Associated Press that 15 had died and 55 had been injured in the metro attack.

Later on Tuesday Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks, a news agency affiliated with the group said.

"Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station," the Amaq agency said.

The attacks occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, a suspected participant in November 2015 militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Belgian police had been on alert for any reprisal action. 

Belgium's terror alert level was raised to its highest level and Brussels was in lockdown. All incoming and departing flights from the airport were cancelled. Swiss International Air Lines cancelled all its air links with the Belgian capital until Easter Monday. The Lufthansa Group, of which Swiss is part, was offering transportation by bus from Frankfurt to Brussels. Daily trains between Basel and Brussels were running on schedule, the Federal Railways said.

Authorities told people in Brussels to stay where they were, bringing the city to a standstill. Airport security was also tightened in Paris, London and other European cities, including Geneva and Zurich.

Metro stations and the city’s museums have also been reportedly shut. Eurostar has suspended trains to and from Brussels Midi station.

Belgium's prime minister, Charles Michel, said military reinforcements had been deployed. He called for "calm and solidarity" after what he described as a "dark tragedy".

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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