King and queen of Belgium commemorate Brussels attacks

International

Representatives of victims and others carry flowers and photos at Brussels Airport during events held for the fifth anniversary of the Brussels terrorist attacks, in Brussels, Monday, March 22, 2021. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The king and queen of Belgium paid tribute Monday to the victims of the suicide bombings that killed 32 people and injured hundreds more in the Brussels subway and airport exactly five years ago.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde started the commemorations at Brussels airport alongside Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. They met victims and their relatives after Philippe laid flowers in front of a memorial plaque.

They continued their journey to the Maelbeek metro station in downtown Brussels, observing another moment of silence at 9:11 a.m. (0811 GMT), the exact time that the explosion went off in a subway train close to the city’s European Union buildings.

Earlier this year, 10 people, including the lone known surviving suspect in the 2015 deadly Paris attacks, were ordered to stand trial in connection with the Brussels suicide bombings.

Among the those to stand trial is Salah Abdeslam, who is also suspected of playing a major role in the Paris attacks, and Mohamed Abrini, the Brussels native who walked away from Brussels’ Zaventem airport after his explosives failed to detonate. No date has yet been set for the trial.

Abdeslam was captured in Brussels on March 18, 2016, and his arrest may have prompted other members of an Islamic State group cell to bring forward a planned attack. Four days later, suicide bombers detonated their explosives in the Brussels airport and metro during the morning rush hour.

In Paris, the network of French and Belgian extremists killed 130 people in attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, the national stadium and in bars and restaurants.

Around 900 people suffered physical or mental trauma in the Brussels attacks, which were claimed by IS.

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