Brussels airport remains closed as police threaten strikes

Brussels airport remained closed Friday, 10 days after suicide bomb attacks that killed more than 30 in the Belgian capital, as police unions blocked the resumption of operations, demanding additional security measures.

On March 22, two attackers blew themselves up in the departure hall of the Brussels Zaventem airport, while a third set off an explosion at a subway station in town. The attacks killed 32 victims. The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility.

Further damage was caused when another device later exploded at the airport, once bomb disposal experts were on the scene. Nobody was injured in that blast.

The airport has since set up a temporary check-in area and was given the operational go-ahead late Wednesday, following extensive safety checks and passenger simulations.

But a row with police unions over airport security was delaying the political approval Friday for operations to resume, the Belga news agency reported. The syndicalists had demanded that anyone entering the airport building should undergo security checks.

Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters said the government would not allow the airport to reopen until the Interior Ministry has reached agreement with the unions, following a three-hour meeting Friday of the national security council.

Peeters said it would not be possible to reopen the airport on Saturday, according to the RTBF broadcaster. The national security council includes the ministers responsible for security matters and officials from intelligence services.

Earlier this week, airport police complained in an open letter about poor security at Zaventem, pointing among other things to a lack of checks on people and baggage entering the airport building.

They wrote that at least 50 Islamic State sympathizers worked in the airport and had security badges, Belgian media reported.

Police unions argued in a separate letter that the authorities had "failed in their duty to offer a safe workplace to employees," threatening strike action if security is not improved.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon is currently in Washington, attending a summit on nuclear security. He is due back in Belgium on Saturday, Belga wrote.

Meanwhile Friday, Brussels banned a demonstration by the French far-right group Generation Identitaire (Identity Generation) that was planned to take place on Saturday in the Molenbeek neighbourhood. The area has been linked to the Brussels attacks, as well as attacks in Paris last November that killed 130.

Their protest was announced under the motto: "Let's expel the Islamists."

The decision to ban the demonstration was taken by the head of the Brussels regional government, Rudi Vervoort, Belga reported. It comes after a crowd of self-proclaimed hooligans wreaked havoc Sunday at a makeshift memorial site to the victims of the Brussels attacks.

Last update: Fri, 01/04/2016 - 20:36
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