Terrorists attack Brussels airport and subway, at least 30 killed as ISIS claims responsibility
Anthony Roman, terror expert
By Steve Bittenbender
The international airport and a subway station in Belgium’s capital were the targets of terrorists, whose attacks on those facilities Tuesday morning have killed at least 30 people and injured scores more.
Terror organization Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to the Amaq news agency. Suicide bombers detonated two devices at Brussels’ Zaventem airport. A third device did not explode as first responders eventually diffused it.
“Islamic State fighters opened fire inside Zaventem Airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, (and) as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maalbeek metro station,” the news agency reported.
World leaders quickly denounced the attacks, which came just days after Belgian officials arrested an individual believed to be a surviving attacker from last November’s deadly raid on Paris. Those attacks, also committed by ISIS, killed more than 130 people.
“We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing to justice those who are responsible,” President Obama said. “And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.”
On Friday, Belgian police stormed into Brussels’ Molenbeek neighborhood to capture Salah Abdeslam, whose brother died as a suicide bomber in the Paris attacks. Authorities allege the French citizen fled to the densely populated Brussels neighborhood, which features a large Muslim population, after the deadly Nov. 13 incidents.
However, not all believe Tuesday’s events were done only just because of Abdeslam’s capture. Some believe the level of planning indicates the attack may have been planned well in advance.
“The likely purpose of the attack is twofold,” said Timothy Nichols, executive director of the Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “First, to erode the confidence of the citizens in their government’s ability to protect them; secondly, to provoke an overreaction against the Muslim community that would consequentially ‘push’ moderate Muslims toward ISIS in both support and operations.”
While Belgian officials found the suspect, terror expert Anthony Roman of Roman and Associates said their security network is too small and “doesn't have deep intelligence penetration into the radical elements in centered in Molenbeek.”
Roman added that his sources indicate the Muslim neighborhoods have become more defiant since the Paris attacks.
The way the terrorists struck the airport raised concerns for Roman, too. Three men pushed luggage carts into the airport. There were some shouts in Arabic and some shots fired before two men detonated their bombs. The third suspect escaped and a manhunt is underway for that individual.
Roman said a lacking police presence in most U.S. airports and the existing problems with the Transportation Security Administration make American airports just as vulnerable.
With the attacks taking place in areas of heavy traffic, experts added that it makes the role of travelers and commuters even more important. While more security cameras, more sensors and more officers can be added, they still may not see everything that is suspicious.
Ed English, CEO of ELERTS, which provides a mobile application for passengers to report activity on six major transit systems in the country, said people need to report such suspicions as quickly as possible.
“Since 9/11, public transportation systems have been a soft target for terrorists and transportation authorities have installed systems and technology and encouraged riders to report suspicious behavior,” English said. “Those systems work even better when transit riders know what to look for and report it. Human analytics are very powerful.”