Brussels airport to reopen with tightened perimeter security

The Brussels airport will have tighter perimeter security measures when it reopens as early as Sunday, the Belga news agency reported, after the March 22 suicide bombings that killed 32 people in the Belgian capital.

Police unions demanding additional security measures had blocked the resumption of operations, but closer inspections of passengers and luggage arriving at the airport were agreed late Friday between union representatives and Interior Ministry officials, Belga reported.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said it was "symbolically and economically important" for the airport to reopen, according to a spokesman.

No official timetable was set for operations to resume, but Belga reported that flights could begin Sunday, citing unnamed sources.

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 the city. The Islamic State extremist group 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 the row with police unions over airport security delayed political approval Friday for operations to resume. The union had demanded that anyone entering the airport building should undergo security checks.

Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters had said the government would not allow the airport to reopen until the Interior Ministry reached agreement with the unions.

Peeters said it would not be possible to reopen the airport Saturday, according to the RTBF broadcaster.

Airport police complained this week 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.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon was 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 for Saturday in the Molenbeek neighbourhood. The area has been linked to the Brussels attacks, as well as attacks in November in Paris.

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: Sat, 02/04/2016 - 12:11

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