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Belgium marks first anniversary of deadliest attacks

Solemn commemorations were held at the Brussels International Airport and one of the city’s metro stations as Belgium marked the first anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history on Wednesday.

Thirty-two civilians were killed and more than 300 injured in three bombings on the morning of March 22, 2016.

Two explosions were set off within seconds of each other in the check-in area of Brussels airport.

A man lights a candle in tribute to victims at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) in Brussels on March 22, 2016, following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded. A series of explosions claimed by the Islamic State group ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train on March 22, killing around 35 people in the latest attacks to bring bloody carnage to the heart of Europe. AFP PHOTO

Later, a third bomb exploded in the central metro station of Maelbeek, which is located close to EU headquarters.

During the official commemorations a moment of silence was observed at 07:58 a.m. (0658 GMT) at the airport and at 9:11 a.m. at the metro station to mark the exact timings of the explosions.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde greeted survivors and first responders at the ceremonies.

“March 22, 2016, the day our lives were turned upside down,’’ said Lars Waetzmann, whose wife Jennifer was killed in the airport attack.

“Many times I ask myself, what if? What if we would have left 10 minutes later? What if we had driven a bit slower? What if? But it happened.’’

Outside the airport, a sculpture that had been damaged during the bombing was unveiled organisers called it “a silent witness’’.

At the Maelbeek metro station, Christelle Giovannetti, a survivor of the bombing, gave a moving testimony of the attack and her struggle to deal with its aftermath.

“This explosion took lives and dreams, it ended paths.

“How can I break out of the solitude? How can I move on with images of the horror in my head? But I also discovered and witnessed how citizens stood shoulder by shoulder,’’ Giovannetti said.

A victim’s wife, Kristin Verellen, shared a poem she wrote for her husband Johan who had died at the Maelbeek station.

Later on a monument will also be inaugurated commemorating the victims of the attacks.

The bombings were carried out by Belgian nationals, who detonated explosives they had been carrying in large suitcases.

Three attackers died in the bombings, while one other man now in custody has confessed to being involved.

The Islamic State extremist group later claimed responsibility for the bombings.


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