The Brussels airport that was the site of a deadly terrorist attack last month has reopened.
Zaventem airport partially reopened Sunday, nearly two weeks after suicide bombings killed 16 people and injured scores others at the check-in area. Sixteen others were killed and more injured in a separate attack in a Brussels metro station the same day. At least 270 people were wounded in the attacks.
The passenger flights, operated by Brussels Airlines, left Zaventem Sunday, bound for Athens, Turin in Italy, and Faro in Portugal.
“These flights are the first hopeful sign from an airport that is standing up straight after a cowardly attack,” said Arnaud Feist, the CEO of Brussels Airport Company.
Feist said the number of flights will gradually increase in the coming days. Passengers are being advised to arrive at least three hours before their flights, and will be checked in at a temporary area constructed in the wake of the attacks. Some foreign airlines have said they will not return to the airport for weeks or months, citing security.
Airport officials hope to return to normal operations by the end of June or beginning of July. Repairing the damage caused by the blasts could take months.
The Brussels metro system reopened last weekend, but Maelbeek station, where the attack occurred, remains closed.
Brussels remains on edge after the deadly attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State. The victims included students, commuters, and travelers, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s. About half were Belgian; others came from China, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Belgian officials have not released an official list of the victims, but the Associated Press and others have compiled stories told by their families and friends. Dozens of the wounded remain hospitalized.
Belgian authorities last week lowered the country’s terror alert level from the highest level, four, to three, which means the threat of an attack remains high. Police are conducting raids across the country in search of a suspect in the attacks; three perpetrators died in the explosions. They have detained several people on terrorism-related charges.
Last week, the Belgian justice and interior ministers offered their resignations—which the prime minister rejected—after evidence emerged that suggested Belgian officials failed to act last year to detain one of the suicide bombers in the airport attack. The perpetrator, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, was detained in June 2015 near Turkey’s border. Turkish officials say they warned their Belgian counterparts that el-Bakraoui, a Belgian native, had terrorist ties. Turkey deported him to the Netherlands, where he was released when Belgian and Dutch authorities could not determine proof of his involvement with jihadists.
In France, police continue to search for suspects in similar Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last year. French and Belgian officials have not officially linked the Paris and Brussels attacks. But Belgian prosecutors said last week that the other airport attacker, Najim Laachraoui, was an associate of Salah Abdeslam, one of the plotters of the Paris attacks who was captured by police in Brussels just days before the assault on the Belgian capital. Both men were Belgian natives.
Belgium has long been known as Europe’s hotspot for Islamist radicals. More Belgians have joined the Islamic State as a proportion of the population than any other Western nation.
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