Paris and Brussels put down would-be terror attacks within 24 hours

June 21, 2017, 6:39am

Months after terrorist attacks in Brussels took the lives of more than 30 people, Belgian soldiers shot and killed a suspected suicide bomber in the city’s Central Station Tuesday evening in what Belgian federal prosecutor’s office called a terror attack. The man set off a minor explosion, which the Belgian police said caused no harm to anyone but the suspect — but did cause people to panic and run for cover.

“There was an explosion around a person,” a spokesperson for the Belgian police said. “That person was neutralized by the soldiers that were on the scene.”

Though Central Station is one of Belgium’s busiest train stations, the explosion reportedly occurred at 8:30 p.m. local time, well after the end of rush hour. Belgian media reported the suspect, who witnesses said was in his 30s, was wearing an explosive vest and carrying a backpack, but the police spokesperson would not confirm such reports.

The Grand Place, a historical site nearby the train station that is traditionally jammed with tourists, was also evacuated as police worked to contain the situation. Belgian officials also stopped service at two of Brussels’ other main train stations.

News of an explosion in the heart of Brussels immediately set off fears of another terror attack in a city still on its second-highest alert level after the Islamic State claimed a two-pronged attack that killed 32 people in March 2016. The incident also came less than 24 hours after an armed attacker drove his car into police stationed on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. However, much like the incident in Brussels, the would-be attacker was stopped by police before anyone else could be injured.

“Once again, France’s security forces have been targeted in an attempted attack on the Champs-Elysées,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters Monday, adding, “The car contained weapons, explosives, enough to allow him to blow up this car.”

France’s anti-terror prosecutor said an investigation into the incident would be opened. The attacker was on France’s terror watchlist for his links to known extremists, and was killed in the incident.

Like Brussels, Paris has also been the target of brutal, large-scale terror attacks by ISIS in recent years. The two cities suffered at the hands of a group of Brussels-based ISIS-affiliated terrorists, who were behind the Brussels’ March attack and Paris’ November 2015 attack that killed 130.

Both cities remain on high alert.

Nick Miriello contributed to this report.