tv ABC7 News 1100PM ABC March 22, 2016 1:07am-1:38am PDT
european destinations. >> reporter: absolutely, for example, there is a brussels to newark flight at 10:00 in the morning in about an hour but that's going to be one of the many flights that has been canceled this morning. we understand that all flights have been grounded leaving brussels. there were a few that were able to land after the attacks happened just after 8:00 in the morning. but otherwise all flights going out have been canceled and flights coming in have been diverted to other airports. now, just before i lost the signal there, you were asking me about the mood in brussels and whether it's brussels or france or other european capitals, everyone is keenly aware of the fact that the next attack is coming but they do try to go about their normal lives. there is a sense of people being on edge and nervousness and inevitability but people do continue to try resiliently their normal lives but if you're in paris or brussels, you will see large numbers of police, security forces have been
stepped up by the thousands since those attacks in november at the main tourist sites and sensitive targets like jewish facilities, jewish schools, jewish museums you will see the army out in the street so even if you're a tourist and having fun and taking pictures lurking in the background there is a heightened security presence that does remind you that this is -- these are countries, this is a continent that is still reeling from those nova tacks and is still very muchen edge. >> you know, as we speak there is a manhunt for a suspect linked to that terrorist attack. can you tell us a little about that and about just kind of what the sense is of where things stand with that manhunt investigation? >> reporter: right, so everyone has been trumpeting the arrest of salah abdeslam who was captured on friday but there is a very important suspect who is still out there. he was just named yesterday by the belgian authorities. his name is najim laachraoui. he was going by a pseudonym.
he is 24 years old, we understand it. he hasn't been scene since late last year but his dna found in two safe houses linked to those isis attackers in belgium and most importantly in one of those safe houses they found the traces of explosives, specifically an explosive called tapt and that's the type used by the suicide bombers on november 13th in brussels in their suicide vests. it's an extremely complex explosive to make and that it's extremely volatile but very easy because the materials that are needed can be bought across -- can be bought over the counter and so there were traces of this explosive tapt found in this house where this -- we know this suspect to have been because of his dna so the think something that he is intricate to the bombmaking process, if not the bombmaker himself for not just
the group of isis attackers that carried out the novaing thats that have all been -- are all now dead or behind bars, but the -- but the broader network of isis followers here in europe and that was one of the most important things to come out of arrest of salah abdeslam, we know he had a strong support network. that's the reason he was able to evade capture for four months but what the authorities are now saying that support network, that logistical network that kept him hidden and moved him around and get more supplies and more weapons, that that is broader and bigger than they originally thought and so, of course, that is also raising fears that even though someone like salah abdeslam can be captured and is now in prison, that more attacks are in the works. >> once again this is an abc news special report. we're having continuing coverage right now, double explosions taking place in the capital of brussels, the international airport there located about six miles northeast of the center of
the city and, alex, i've been to this airport. it is fairly small of an airport and there's several flights to the u.s. that were scheduled for this morning to be taking off just about now. you have a delta klm and air france scheduled to lever at 10:10. united airlines at 10 a.m. and one to jfk at 10:30 in the morning. brussels being six hours ahead of the east coast of the u.s. right now technically many of those passengers might have been checking in at the time of this blast. >> reporter: absolutely. i mean, this is not paris or london. this would be like philadelphia. it's a major european city, but just, you know, just slightly smaller than the biggest cities in the u.s. or in europe. and we have now actually gotten already just in the time that we've spoken with you that shows how close the airport is to the city we are already at the
off-ramp to the airport. you can hear the sirens behind me but we have been stopped here. they are not letting anyone take the road off -- on towards the airport. the highway -- i'll let that car go past. the highway is almost at a standstill. a lot of traffic on this brussels ring road and a police car blocking the ramp and you can probably hear a police officer behind me shouting at cars to keep going. i'm with a group of other reporters, of course, we're all trying to reach the airport. but no one is being allowed through to the airport to that departures hall where the explosions took place this morning, except for emergency services. >> of course, we do want to stress we do not know the cause of these two explosions at the brussels airport yet, so, you know, that's the context that we're bringing you this report from. i do want to ask, alex, you know, when we lost you, you were talking a little about how brussels is not or the airport at least is not on the highest
alert as far as concerns around security but was on the second highest i believe is what you said so i'm just curious, what would people coming to the airport this morning be experiencing in the form of security? is it similar at all to the measures we have in place in the u.s. with tsa or is it more lax than that? what would people be dealing with? >> reporter: they would be very subtle differences compared to what you would have had, say, six months ago before the fears really grew. that's absolutely right. across belgium you have the second highest level, it's called alert level 3. they haven't yet raised it to alert level 4. the french, the belgians are very reluctant to scare the population. they don't want to rile everyone up and make everyone nervous so what the measures that they put in place are simply beefed up security, both police and the military and that's the main difference that you're seeing now in the past four months is that it's not just the police who are out in the streets, not just the police at the airports
but also seeing soldiers so everywhere you go whether it's the airport or downtown brussels, downtown paris even around the eiffel tower, the champs-elysees, you see patrolling soldiers holding their automatic weapons and getting ready, you know, should something happen. now, if you're somewhere else, like the middle east, that is a very common sight but to see this going on at some of europe's major tourist sites, it's really quite startling, so what departing tourists and passengers would have seen this morning an increased security in terms of the patrols an the airport but other than that, the security, the tsa equivalent, if you will, would essentially at least on the surface have been what they would have experienced usually. >> and once again you're taking a look at some of the images coming in shortly after these explosions. you actually have passengers in an area we're not familiar with. they are on the tarmac there at
the brussels international airport. the airport was evacuated shortly after these dual explosions took place earlier this morning. we are told right now that all flights have been canceled for the day at the brussels airport and you can understand why that is the case. abc's alex marquardt has just arrived at the airport. alex, we hear the sirens. describe to us some of the images, some of the smells you're experiencing right now. >> reporter: so we're a few hundred yards away. i'll let these emergency cars go past. that was just two police suvs that went screaming past. got a quick glimpse of the folks inside. you know, well equipped. heavily armed going towards the airport. the emergency services, the police, the fire trucks are the only ones who are now being allowed towards the airport. we are on the main highway. it is essentially bumper to
bumper, standstill traffic because no one is being allowed to pull off to go to the airport. that's why most of the people would be coming out on this road at this time. but there's a series of cones set up and no one especially not reporters are being allowed towards the airport even on foot. so we've got a lot of traffic, a lot of noise because of all the sirens and cars heading toward the airport and heard them in downtown brussels all the way out to the airport so a lot of commotion this morning, of course, a lot of questions, when there are two explosions that take place at a major european airport, the first assumption is going to be this is terrorism. we should remind our viewers that the belgian authorities have not yet declared that. what they've said is there were two explosions, there are wounded. they have confirmed that one person has been killed. but they have not given any higher news. there are other numbers floating out there for now, but the evacuation of the passengers from that departures hall is
taking place and in the meantime, emergency services are keeping everyone else away from the airport. >> alex, for people just now tuning in and maybe just getting up to speed with the story, give us a little bit of the sense of the context and timing of when this happened. this comes in the wake of the arrest of the suspect in the paris attacks, salah abdeslam, and another manhunt is under way. >> reporter: well, for the past few days authorities have been patting themselves on the back for having captured salah abdeslam, who is known as eighth paris attacker. this is a 26-year-old french man who grew up in belgium who was the only survivor of those paris attacks. everyone else was either killed or killed themselves and in the interrogation one of the first revelations was abdeslam said he was supposed to kill himself that day, but decided not to. whether he got cold feet, we don't know but he said that he backed out and so everyone has been focused on this, if you
will, the authorities' triumphant moment of taking him down and arresting him and trying to figure out what information can be gleaned from him but it goes without saying that this is a coup but he is not a pivotal figure in the isis organization. a guy who did not go to fight in iraq or syria. he was a soldier for isis and so the fear now is there are thought only fighters, europeans which there are thousands in iraq and syria coming back to carry out and plan attacks but also homegrown jihadists people like salah abdeslam who are willing to take up arms and carry out attacks and wreak havoc. the message coming from isis now is telling their fighters, don't just carry out big symbolic attacks like paris where they targeted a very famous landmarks, strategic locations,
they're saying carry them out wherever you can, kill whoever you can so what intelligence officials expect to see in the coming months and years really are different types of attacks, sporadic attacks, anything that can sauce any sort of disruption, anything that can cause any sort of fear and so, of course, this is a country, these are countries, this is a continent that is still very much reeling from those paris attacks, very afraid for the next attack, knowing that it could come soon. of course, we don't know what has happened today but that's the mood here is that everyone is going to immediately assume that this is linked if not directly then certainly indirectly to this broader mission of isis and other jihadists to carry out attacks in europe. >> i want to point out that some of the images you're seeing right now are new to us, at least since we've come on air. you can see the impact of this explosion right now and as you can tell from some of the shooting a lot of it is raw.
these are the scene, people have evacuated the airport terminal getting on to the road outside the airport and a shot that showed a building that said brussels airport. based on my memory of being there that's pretty much it. it's a relatively small airport and a relatively small building, so if there were people in that departure area at the time they no doubt heard or may have been impacted in this and a quick roundup of some of the tweets coming from the brussels airport they're saying that passengers are still located in other areas of the airport and asked to remain calm and wait for further information. nothing yet from the u.s. embassy located there in belgium, nothing from american airlines or united airlines, both of which have flights flying out of brussels today, alex, no doubt we expect to hear from them soon. >> and we're seeing pictures of emergency crews responding. people emotional reacting to the situation there. we've seen crowds that appear
calm with people trying to figure out where they're supposed to go next. >> and, alex, i should point out i know you're not aware of this. the terror level has just been raised there in belgium. what do you think of that? >> reporter: yeah, i just saw that, as well so now we are at the terror level 4 which as you noticed is the highest level. so that's the clearest indication yet that we've gotten from the authorities that they believe this to, indeed, ab a terrorist attack trying to keep people calm at this point but when you have two explosions that go off amid thousands of people in the departures area at one of europe's main airports, obviously the assumption is this is terrorism. now they are basically acknowledging that by raising this terror level to 4, according to belgian television, public television there is going to be a press conference in about 40 minutes, and so hopefully we will get some answers from them now. i should note that we are on
foot heading towards the airport. there is a blockade checkpoint for cars, but we are hoping to get closer to the airport and get a bit more information. you asked about the mood earlier, what was the sights and sounds. there is a heavy stench of burning in the air. it smells like burning tires. this is a very chaotic scene as you can hear behind me, lots of sirens, lots of people trying to figure out where to go. lots of confusion and i'm looking now at a family of travelers clearly walking away from the airport. they like thousands of others this morning are not -- were not able to take their flight out but in many ways it sounds like they are probably the lucky ones because they were not wounded. we do know that there were wounded this morning. we don't have a number for that and the latest death toll as we understand it from the belgian authorities is confirmed at one. but it could be higher. >> and, alex, with the terror
threat being raised to the highest level of alert can you give us any sense of how that impacts brussels and the city more broadly today? >> reporter: well, it's not that it will paralyze it but it will certainly wreak havoc. this is an airport that not just travelers and regular people use but this is -- this is a city that is home to nato, to the european union, to, of course, every major country's embassy, in fact, the u.s. has three ambassadors here, one for nato, one for the eu and one for belgium and so that just gives you a sense of the importance. this might be a second tier city in terms of size, but in terms of importance, it is absolutely crucial. this is often referred to as the capital of europe and so by paralyzing the airport, you're certainly going to cause business to slow down and travel
plans to be disrupted but more than anything, if this indeed was an attack, it shows that the people out there who want to carry out these sorts of attacks are able to go after one of the most sensitive and high security locations in the country. >> and, yeah, and that really is a good reminder that how important of a capital this is. this airport only sees about 23 million people in traffic each year, but they're very key individuals flying through that airport. it is home to the european union capital and also nato operations out of belgium, as well. alex, at a level 4, any idea what that means, are there more checkpoints or what? >> reporter: i don't know exactly. what it certainly is going to mean is more police, more military out in the streets, a lot more people being deployed, more checkpoints, people being -- people being search add cross the city. i mean this is -- when a city
like this goes into its highest alert level, you now will visibly see what might have been security forces who were in the shadows who were being very subtle suddenly coming out in a show of force. they were be extremely visible, for example, in brussels, the main tourist attraction is the center square. like times square so i imagine what's happening right now they're setting up a perimeter around that. it will be controlling people looking at the people who are going in, looking at their i.d.s and purses and bags and that sort of thing so what might have been a more laid back but heightened sense of security is w going to be a lot more proactive and visible. >> one of the troubling things about these, while you did have dual explosions here oftentimes as you know you covered the attacks in paris, that's not the end of it. there's usually a cell somewhere else that might be operating.
>> reporter: right and the belgian authorities have said since they captured salah abdeslam, the last paris attacker and have been interrogating him, whether he has admitted or discovered evidence on their own, they've said that the network around him that was not just hiding him and moving him around but that was collecting more weapons, ammunition and planning more attacks is a lot bigger and sophisticated than they originally thought so even with his capture, the assumption was not that, you know, this was stopping any sort of attacks but that more could happen. >> and for those of us who -- the viewers at home just tuning in let's bring them up to speed on what happened at the brussels airport around 8 a.m. this morning local time there was a double explosion at the airport in the departure hall. people have been wounded. one has reportedly been killed. all we know at this point.
we do not know what the cause of the attack is but belgian authorities have raised the level of alert to the maximum level in the wake of this -- these explosions, rather, there are two. we're on the phone with abc's alex marquardt who has covered extensively what has been going on in belgium, including the recent arrest of salah abdeslam, who was arrested in brussels very recently. he is a prime suspect in the paris attacks and there's also a manhunt under way for another suspected accomplice so, alex, where are you now? you were trying to get closer to the airport from a perimeter where you had been stopped in your car. you were surrounded by media and as you've been moving you're starting to have smells of smoke in the air, with that explosion being close by to you at the airport. where are you now and what are you seeing? >> reporter: well, the reason you're probably hearing a little less except for this ambulance flying past right now is that there are no more cars around me. we've gotten out of the car and
walking towards the airport to see how close we can get to see if there's anything else that we can actually see by -- the highway -- the roads around the airport are completely empty. there's no more traffic because no one has been allowed in. our car was stopped from going in and so that's why we are on foot. lauren, i should note, the belgian authorities have not confirmed this yet but there are reports in the belgian media of a possible third explosion at a metro station, a subway station in brussels. in a place called malbec but it is being reported quite widely by belgian media. the fear is not just sing lal attacks but not just in the city but across europe. attacks happening in brussels,
london, paris, simultaneously, so if there are reports now coming out of a third explosion obviously will immediately raise fears this is a coordinated attack that is under way. that, of course, is similar to what we saw in paris in november with at the bataclan theatre and the biggest soccer stadium and elsewhere around paris. it's still early yet but they're reporting a third explosion at a subway station. >> that would be a headliner right now. we had reports of two explosi explosions. you can see the damage at the airport and roughly about an hour and a half ago, about 9:30 local time in brussels and now alex, you're reporting that some local immediamedia reporting an explosion near the heart of brussels at this hour. of course, we haven't con firmed
that but would go toward the sort of attacks that we've had before with these coordinated terror attacks in paris. >> well, it looks like it's bigger than that. i am looking at the belgium public television station like the bbc and they are confirming three explosions at three different subway explosions, and that would bring it to a total of five at four different locations, the three subway stations in brussels, and one is near the seat of the belgium government and one near the seat of the european union. i remind you, this is coming from the belgium public tf broadcaster, so a fairly reliable source, and that would be four different locations. >> can you give us a sense of where these locations are throughout the city?
are they far apart or close together? give us a sense of geography? >> brussels is not a large city, and it's a lot more concentrated than the pairiris attacks which were all spread out. the airport is miles outside, and when you talk about different locations, none is far away from each other. the importance, of course, you are striking at one of the highest security areas, the airport, and then at least two metra stations that have symbolic locations, next to the seat of the european union. >> we want to reset incase viewers are tuning into the bottom of the hour, you are looking at the brussels airport, new video into us, and you can see what impact the blast had.
those are ceiling tiles that have come down to the ground and injuries reported there, and the breaking news we are getting now, there are local reports saying there may have been an additional three explosions at metro stations all around the capital. >> three different reporters, and a public broadcaster, similar to the bbc in brussels. >> the significant is one of those is located near the eu, and by chance do you think the third is near the nato headquarters? >> reporter: it's what you were talking about, it's what the significance of the city s. this city is home of the major institutions, the european union and nato and all of the embassies concentrated in the center of brussels, and if the
explosions did take place at the metro stations they are highly symbolic, because one of them is next to the belgium government and another is next to the main building, and of course, when you add on the explosions you already know about at the airport, two of them at 8:00 this morning, this would indicate a coordinated attack. we hope to be getting more information from the belgium authorities at the top of the hour to fill us in because there's a lot of confusion right now. what we do know is that there are wounded at the airport, and at least one person killed and reports of more as the authorities have sealed off the airport and flights have stopped going out and coming in and we are on our way by foot to that departure right now? >> you mentioned two explosions happened at 8:00 a.m. local time at the airport and subsequently we have the reports unconfirmed
at explosions at three other subway stations in the area. give us a sense of what is going on this time of day in brussels? is this a peak time for people to move throughout the city and getting to work? give us a sense of what the city is doing right now. >> reporter: this is 9:30 in the city, and this is when people are taking the further flights out of the city during the day and people are using the metro to go to work. this is the highest traffic until the end of the day that the city will see. if you are talking about coordinated and targeted attacks, then, you know, this is the hour that makes most sense to target. now i am seeing official word from the brussels metro, the
subway system, they are shutting down the whole system, all metro stations are closing across brussels and that follows reports of three explosions at three different metro stations in the heart of the capital, very symbolic area, next to the seat of the european union and the belgium government. >> it's a big deal, everybody. we are getting reports of additional explosions of several metro stations at the city of brussels, this coming after the two explosions that took place at the airport about 8:00 in brussels, and brussels is five hours ahead of time, normally six. they have shut down the airport and shut down the metro station. i can just imagine this is the city in the throws of a lot of angst right now?
>> reporter: yeah, emergency tk would be shutting down new york. the russians shut down six stops on the metro because they wanted to isolate it and keep everything going, and now europeans are taking a lot more precautions than that and we are seeing that right now. the belgiu belgiums shutting do stations. so right now, the only way to get around this city is by car, by bus. we have not heard yet what is happening with the railway system, but when you are shutting down the subway system of a major european city, that means there are strong fears of
attacks and possible more attacks to come. >> in the time you have been reporting in brussels with the recent events have you seen anything like this where clos e closures like this have occurred or you would -- >> reporter: could you repeat that? >> i was asking in the recent events that you have been covering in brussels and surrounding all of these events and the arrests in paris, how -- i don't want to say unprecedented, but how unusual is all of this? >> reporter: it's extremely unusual. we have not seen anything like this since the attacks in paris. to shut down the airports, and