All 32 casualties identified a week after Brussels terrorist attacks

A week after the triple bombing attacks on Brussels, state prosecutors announced Tuesday that all casualties had been identified, while revising the number of victims down to 32.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the morning of March 22 at the Brussels airport and the Maelbeek metro station, near the Brussels headquarters of the European Union's main institutions.

Of those killed, 17 were Belgian and 15 had foreign nationalities, officials said, adding that no minors were killed. The figures released Tuesday do not include the three suicide bombers.

The announcement follows several days of confusion over the number of casualties. The latest revision is due to the fact that three people were listed both among those who died at the crime scenes and those who later died in hospital, officials said.

An overall 94 people are still in hospital, of whom 49 are in intensive care, the Health Ministry announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Since the attacks, Belgian investigators have been hunting for a fourth suspect who dropped off an explosive device at the airport and then left.

Belgian media had identified the man as Faycal Cheffou, who was taken into custody on Thursday and later charged with terrorist murder, attempted terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist group.

But he was released on Monday due to a lack of evidence against him, prosecutors said. He is the only person so far to have been charged explicitly in relation to the Brussels attacks.

Police have received 51 pointers from the public after releasing a surveillance video of the airport fugitive on Monday, the Belga news agency reported. The suspect, nicknamed "the man with the hat" based on the video footage, has not yet been identified, the police press service said.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Cheffou's lawyer Olivier Martins said his client had declared that he was innocent, was opposed to Islamic State and had no link with the terrorists involved in the attack, Belga reported.

Cheffou could demonstrate that he was at home at the time of the airport attack, the lawyer said, suggesting a verification of his fingerprints, DNA and physiognomy, Belga wrote. The airport video footage shows a man with a stockier build than the images of Cheffou disseminated in the media.

The Belgian Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that the country's former ambassador to the United Nations, Andre Adam, was among the dead. The retired diplomat had also been Belgium's ambassador to Algiers, Kinshasa and Washington.

EU President Donald Tusk on Tuesday expressed his sympathies to the families of the victims and called for a tough response to terrorism.

"European solidarity and freedom will only prevail when accompanied by strength. Our tolerance must end where violence begins," he said.

Brussels airport announced that it would not reopen before Thursday. The two bomb blasts there caused extensive damage to the departure hall. On Tuesday, temporary alternative check-in areas underwent safety tests and passenger simulations involving 800 airport staff.

Airport chief Arnaud Feist told the Belgian daily newspaper L'Echo that it would take months to completely restore the original airport check-in area.

The German airline Lufthansa cancelled all flights to the Belgian capital's international airport through Sunday, noting that by then, an overall 265 flights and 19,600 passengers will have been affected.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced that all its flights to Brussels airport will be redirected to Charleroi through Friday.

The Brussels underground will also continue Wednesday to operate a restricted service, its operator announced. Of the 69 stations, 39 are open at present, with trains running between 7 am and 7 pm (0500 GMT and 1700 GMT).

Last update: Tue, 29/03/2016 - 22:05
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