Brussels train station attack: what we know

by Danny KEMP
Brussels train station attack: what we know

Brussels (AFP) - Belgian soldiers shot dead a suspected bomber who set off a small explosion in one of the busiest train stations in Brussels on Tuesday.

Here is what we know so far about the incident, the latest in a wave of attacks to hit European cities:

- What happened? -

Prosecutors said there was a small explosion at around 8:30 pm (1830 GMT) in one of the main corridors of Brussels Gare Centrale, or Central Station.

According to a witness the suspect shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before blowing up a wheeled suitcase. Belgian media also reported that he was wearing some kind of suicide vest.

Pictures on social media showed what appeared to be a small ball of flames.

Soldiers guarding the station following the March 2016 Brussels attacks then shot the man, "neutralising" him, prosecutors said. He was later confirmed dead.

There were no other casualties.

- Where did it happen? -

Central Station is one of the three main stations in the Belgian capital, along with Gare du Midi and Gare du Nord.

Originally designed by architect Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style in 1912, construction was not finished until the 1950s due to World War II.

It is a few hundred metres from the Grand Place, a UNESCO world heritage site.

- What did members of the public do? -

The explosion and gunfire sparked a rush of hundreds of people from the railway station, in a busy part of central Brussels near the Grand Place tourist area.

Some crossed rails to get away while others hid in local shops and cafes, Belgian media reported.

A railway spokeswoman said some people were crying and shouting.

Police quickly sealed off the scene and said around half an hour later that the situation was "under control".

Rail travel to and from the station was swiftly halted, and nearby stations closed. The other stations reopened later but Gare Central remains shut.

- Who is the suspect? -

Very little is known so far. Prosecutors said he had not yet been identified.

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

- What is the official reaction? -

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted: "Thanks to our soldiers, security forces and SNCB (rail company) personnel for their professionalism and their courage."

He said he would hold a meeting of his national security council on Wednesday at 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

Belgium's national crisis centre said it was keeping the country's terror level at three out of four, adding that there was no immediate information to suggest that another attack was imminent and that it should be raised to the top level.