Belgian capital tries to pick up pieces as worst fears realised


With a combination of defiance, sadness and anger, people in Brussels tried to return to normality a day after the terrorist massacre that many feared was coming.
Machine-gun wielding soldiers guarded subway entrances and searched commuters’ bags and coats before they were allowed to travel as suspects in Tuesday’s bombings remained at large. Many people followed advice to work from home, while thousands gathered for a vigil in a central Brussels square to honor the victims of the worst terrorist atrocity in Belgium’s history. Ever since the attacks in Paris in November that were traced to plotters in the Belgian capital, many knew a day like this was all too likely.
“You feel the tension in the air,” said Amelie Hubin, a 35-year-old beautician, on her way to work. “The metro is closed and the people who are driving are stressed.”
With a provisional casualty toll from the coordinated attacks standing at 31 dead and about 300 injured, Belgian authorities continued their hunt for a suspect filmed at the airport with the suicide bombers shortly before the explosions as well as a possible accomplice at the metro attack. Officials faced questions over how the assaults could happen in a city that had put soldiers on the streets and stepped up patrols around transport hubs and sensitive buildings since the Paris attacks.

‘Hatred, Fear’
“I felt shocked but I was not surprised; it could have been expected,” said Julia von Franz, a consultant. “Hatred, fear and chaos are exactly what IS wants and we shouldn’t give in to that. I’m worried about the reactions this will provoke towards refugees and Muslims in and outside of Europe.”
Unlike in November, when central Brussels went into virtual lockdown as authorities warned of an imminent attack days after terrorists killed 130 people in Paris, this time Belgium’s capital tried to get on with life as normal: schools opened, buses and trams ran and drinkers sipped espressos at pavement cafes.

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