Sixth anniversary of terrorist attacks: Belgium pays tribute to victims

Sixth anniversary of terrorist attacks: Belgium pays tribute to victims
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the ceremony in Brussels. Credit: The Brussels Times

Belgium paid tribute on Tuesday to victims of terrorist attacks, including those lost during the attacks that rocked the country six years ago in Brussels and Zaventem.

On 22 March 2016, a double attack took place in Belgium, first at Brussels airport in Zaventem where terrorists exploded two suitcase bombs in the departures, and later at the Brussels metro station of Maelbeek in the European quarter, where a bomb exploded on a metro train A total of 32 people died, while more than 340 were severely injured.

Commemorations at the Maelbeek metro station following the attacks. Credit: Belga

During Tuesday's subdued commemoration, held on the attacks' sixth anniversary, the names of all victims of terrorist acts in Belgium and all Belgian victims of terrorist acts abroad– a total of 49 people– were read out loud at a monument created for them in Rue de la Loi in Brussels.

The annual commemoration is organised by the office of the Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who attended the event alongside the representatives of the victims' associations Life4Brussels and V-Europe, Brussels Airport CEO Arnaud Feist, and the CEO of Brussels public transport operator STIB, Brieuc de Meeûs.

Flowers are being laid down on the monument. Credit: Lauren Walker/The Brussels Times

The ceremony, held at the monument to the victims of terrorist acts, ended in a minute of silence followed by the Belgian and European anthem. The families and friends of the victims laid flowers on the monument and later sought comfort in a group embrace.

Families and people close to the victims embraced. Credit: Lauren Walker/The Brussels Times

Both Brussels Airport and STIB posted messages honouring the victims of the attacks and changed their profile pictures to black and white to commemorate all people who suffered as a result of the attacks six years ago.

"This morning we laid a wreath in Maelbeek station in the presence of our CEO, as well as Brussels' mayor Philippe Close, Brussels Mobility  Minister Van den Brandt. Our CEO later attended the ceremony at Schuman alongside three members of staff," STIB's spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

Continued investment in safety

Various Belgian politicians also paid tribute to the victims on the occasion of the attacks' sixth anniversary and focussed on the fact that Belgium continues to invest in the security of the country against all forms of terrorism. "Ensuring the safety of Belgium remains our priority. We will continue to invest in security and fight against all forms of terrorism, hate and intolerance," Defence Minister Ludivide Dedonder stated. This was mirrored by MR-president Georges-Louis Bouchez, who said on Twitter the fight against extremism continues. Ahead of the start of the assizes trial concerning the 2016 terrorist attacks, which will be the largest assize trial ever held in Belgium Flemish Justice Minister Zuhal Demir announced a team of 40 justice assistants will be deployed to help the surviving victims and relatives. "We hope that the trial that starts in October will bring important recognition for the victims, but it will undoubtedly also be a very difficult period for the more than 1,300 victims. On the sixth commemoration of the attacks, we want to assure them that they are not alone," Demir.

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