Islamic State suicide bombers brought terror, chaos and bloodshed to Brussel on Tuesday detonating bombs at an airport and metro station. The blast left at least 31 people dead and prompted authorities to launch an intensive manhunt for at least one suspected accomplice.
The wanted man accompanied two of the bombers to the airport, along with luggage heaving with explosives. Authorities were also hunting for a suspected Belgian bombmaker who trained in Syria with the Islamic State and later sneaked back into Europe.
Tuesday’s mass killings add this city to an ignominious but growing list of European capitals that have been struck in the past year by deadly attacks either perpetrated or inspired by the Islamic State, including Paris and Copenhagen.
Authorities had been bracing for an attack in Belgium for months as the country has struggled to stem a tide of homegrown extremism and as the Islamic State has repeatedly threatened to hit Europe in its core.
The man being sought by police accompanied two of the bombers to the airport, according to a senior Belgian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details of the case. The taxi driver who transported them said they were hauling particularly heavy luggage that investigators believe was packed with explosives.
Belgian police released surveillance images of three men pushing luggage carts at Brussels Airport. The prosecutor’s office said two of them — dressed in black with black gloves on their left hands, probably to conceal detonators — had blown themselves up. But the third, dressed in white, was on the loose. His identity was unknown, and despite a nationwide hunt — with heavily armed officers combing the streets and checkpoints at Belgian borders snarling traffic for miles — the suspect remained at large Tuesday night.