Today is the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station, and a subdued commemoration will take place amid scenes of another national crisis.
Four years ago this morning, terrorists exploded two suitcase bombs in the departures hall of Brussels Airport. One hour later, another bomb exploded on the Brussels metro as it stood in Maalbeek station in the European quarter.
A total of 32 people were killed in the two attacks, and 340 people injured.
The annual commemoration, organised by the office of the prime minister, which has taken place three times since the attacks, will this year not take place. The reason is the current state of lockdown the country finds itself in as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.
Instead, a simpler ceremony will take place, limited to only survivors and relatives of the victims.
“Just like last year, we had planned a commemoration at four locations: the airport, Maalbeek station, the monument on Place Schuman and in the Residence Palace, reserved for victims and families,” said a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office.
“But earlier this week we had to cancel, as a result of the stricter measures related to the coronavirus epidemic.”
Instead, premier Sophie Wilmès will lead a limited ceremony on Place Schuman, under the rules on social distancing, including victim organisations and representatives of the Brussels public transport authority STIB and the airport. No more than 20 people will take part.
“We will film the ceremony, and send it out to victims and families shortly after,” the spokesperson said.
• Meanwhile the federal prosecutor’s office has decided to call for the committal for trial by jury of eight of the 13 people accused of crimes relating to the attacks. They include Salah Abdeslam, who was in prison on the day of the attacks, but is accused of helping in the planning, and also of being involved in the attacks in Paris in November 2015. His arrest in Forest commune in Brussels on 18 March 2016 in relation to that investigation may in fact have been the trigger that set the events of 22 March in motion.