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ISIS claims responsibility for Brussels terror attacks

BRUSSELS – A series of deadly terrorist attacks struck Brussels on Tuesday, with two explosions at the city’s main international airport and a third in a subway station at the heart of the city, near the headquarters of the European Union.

At least one of the two airport explosions was touched off by a suicide bomber, officials said. At least 34 people were killed – 14 at the airport and 20 at the subway station – and many more wounded, including 92 at the airport and 106 at the subway station.

“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened,” Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said at a news conference, calling the attacks “blind, violent, cowardly.”

On Twitter, he called on people to “avoid all movement,” as authorities braced for the possibility of additional violence.

In the afternoon, Amaq, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic State, issued a bulletin saying the militant group was responsible for the attacks. “Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels, a country participating in the coalition against the Islamic State,” it said. “Islamic State fighters opened fire inside the Zaventem airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maelbeek metro station.”

The attacks occurred four days after the capture on Friday of Europe’s most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam. He is the sole survivor of the 10 men believed to have been directly involved in the Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris on Nov. 13.

President Francois Hollande of France vowed “to relentlessly fight terrorism, both internationally and internally.” He added, “Through the Brussels attacks, it is the whole of Europe that is hit.”

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called an emergency meeting of ministers. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany said the attacks “aim at the heart of Europe.” Pope Francis expressed condolences.

President Barack Obama, speaking in Havana, expressed solidarity with the victims in Brussels. “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,” he said. “We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people around the world.”

The attacks on Tuesday put the Belgian capital in a state of virtual lockdown, with the threat level raised to its highest possible level.

All flights to and from Brussels Airport were canceled indefinitely.