16 people were killed in the suicide bombing in the Maelbeek metro station
16 were killed at the airport in twin bombings an hour earlier
An order to close the Brussels metro ahead of the deadly March terror attacks on the network failed to reach relevant authorities, in part because an email from Belgian federal police was sent to the wrong address, a parliamentary commission has heard.
The commission, established to investigate the March 22 bombings and whether they could have been prevented, heard this week that the senior police official in charge of Brussels’ metro networks first learned more than an hour before the deadly bombing at Maelbeek metro station that the explosions at the city’s airport were a terror attack.
At 8:03 a.m. local time – five minutes after the twin blasts at Brussels’ Zavantem airport that killed 16 – Jo Decuyper, chief of railway police for the Brussels region, was informed by military sources at the airport that the blasts were suicide bombings, the commission heard.
A third attacker struck the Maelbeek metro station in central Brussels at 9:11 a.m., killing 16 others.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Order to close sent at 8.50 a.m.
The commission heard that a federal alert was issued by Belgium’s Federal Crisis Center at 8:50 a.m., including an order to close the metro and the main railway stations in Brussels – but it never reached the relevant authorities.
Seventeen minutes later, at 9:07 a.m., federal police sent Decuyper an email ordering the closure of the Brussels metro network until noon, the commission heard.
But, Decuyper told the commission, it was sent to his personal email address, and he did not see the message until after the attacks.
Even if he had seen the message, it would have made no difference, as “at least 30 minutes” were needed to evacuate the metro network, he told the commission.
It was only after the explosion at 9:11 a.m. that the station was closed and the network evacuated.
Maelbeek station reopened on April 25.
Paris, Brussels attacks linked, say investigators
Investigators say the same ISIS network was behind the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in November, and the Brussels suicide bombings.
The Belgian prosecutor said last month that the network initially planned to strike again in France but changed its target when French investigators appeared to be closing in on those responsible for the Paris attacks.
The Brussels bombings took place four days after the arrest in the city of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks.
The Belgian-born French citizen is currently facing charges in a Paris court of participation in terrorist murder, and taking part in the activities of a terrorist organization.
Swedish citizen Ossama Krayem has been charged in connection with both the Brussels and Paris attacks, with a Belgian prosecutor calling him “omnipresent” during the planning of both plots.
Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian-Moroccan who was arrested in Brussels last month, has also been linked to both attacks.