tv America This Morning ABC March 22, 2016 4:00am-4:30am EDT
it's still in the process of being evacuated from the departures hall where that took place. therwere thousands of people taking flights this morning, leaving from the departure so the airport spokeswoman has said there were wounded. they have not put a number on that wounded and the federal police here have confirmed that at least one person has been killed. there are reports of a higher death toll but thus far nothing more is confirmed. we're on our way to the airport right now and understand the highways heading there, ts is about ten miles outside of brussels are or have been blocked so the authorities have set up a perimeter around the airport andnpolice on the scene and know that the fire services have also been evacuated. the photos that we've seen coming from the airport show dark plumes of smoke rising from that terminal, so right now it's
terms of motive, cause of these explosions but it comes at an extremely sensitive time, just a few days after eighth paris attacker salah abdeslam, the only surviving member of that terrorist group thatarried out that attack was arrested. we spoke to a spokesman and they said the fear now is thaha arrest could trigger more attacks and said either more attacks could take place or of people on the ound and wait for the pressure to ease up. so, of course, right now the immediate fear is this is a terrorist attack. >> we were looking at some really gripping images coming on screen of the terminal. you can see many blown out windows and you also saw something fascinating.
i would say, out there on the tarmac of that airport right now. obviously those folks are -- appear to notlbe injured but it is an interesting scene to see them out there. i'm told the airport has been evacuated and all the flights have so far no flights are going in or out of the brussels airport. and, alex, i know you've been in brussels for the last few days, at least, what do you know of this airport? i imagine it's fairly popular because this is s capital for the eu and for nato. >> reporter:r:absolutely. this is a very important european capital. that's right. this is where the main european union offices are as well as nato and, of course, every major embassy is also here. this is also a country that has been on highlert for quite some time, especially since those attacks in paris i november where a number of the people came from brussels, remember the attackers from this
thth've sent more fighters per capita to isis. 5 you thousand or 6,000 jihadists fighting for them around 1,000 of them are belgian. so the great fear is obviously not only could some of those fighters then come home to carry out attacks but also that they could radicalize people who are already living here, someone like salah abdeslam who is now in police custody being held in a mimum security wing of a belgian prison he never went to fight in iraq or syria but was radicalized enough to become a key member of that isis team that carried out the attacks so this is no small european airport we're talking about. this is a majaj international airport that services as you say not just an important country in europe, but dignitaries and officials traveling all over the world. this is a prime target for anyone who wants to disrupt europe and, of course, european
quite some time especially since november that more attacks are coming. they said it was not a question of if but a question of when. >> you know, alex, given that, i'm curious in the u. we're so used to the stepped up security with the tsa and measures put in place after 9/11, what is it like there? you mentioned the city is on high alert. have security measures been stepped up at the airport? have there been responses to the attacks that we've seen in europe in the form of security and what passengers go through? >> reporter: the terror isalert is the second highest and has not yet been raise to -- [ audio trouble ] >> we're having a little breakup with your phone line. we should pointnt out we're talking right now with abc's international correspondent alex marquardt who is on his way to the brussels airport right now from downtown brussels, about
the city right now. reports started coming in within the last hour of two explosions in the departures hall at the airport. brussels@is roughly six hour as head of the east coast of the u.s. so coming durung morning rush hour. alex is back with us. alex, i can imagine as i mentioned this is during the morning rush hour. this is when many international flights from the u.s. might be arriving and a lot o people might be heading out to other 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 tha were able to land after the attacks happened just after 8:00 in the morning. but otherwise all flights going out have en canceled and flights coming in have been diverted to oer airports. now, just before i lost the
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
>> you know, as we speak there is a manhunt f f a suspect linked to that terrorist attack. can you tell uss 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
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 aackers 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
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 100 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
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 ha now actually gotten already just in the time that we've spoken with y y that shows how close the airport is to the city we are already at the off-ramp to the airport. you c c 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'llet 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.
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 thihi 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 at? 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(
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 everyoneervous 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'sot 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 evenn 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 mdle east, that is a very common sight but to see this going on at some of europe's major tourist sites,
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 thesurface have been what they would have experienced usually. >> and oncegain you're taking a look at some of the images coming in sholy after these explosions. you actually have passengers in an area we're not familiar with. they are on the t tmac there at the brussels international airport. the airport was evacuated shortly after these dual explosionsook 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 marquardttas 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.
past. that was just two polic 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 airport. that's why most of the people would be coming outn 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
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 passengerss 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 tuningin and maybe just gettingng up to speed with the story, give us a little bit of t sense of the context and timing of when this happened. this comes in the wake of the rest 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 pattg themselves on the back
abdeslam, who i 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 atatcks. everyone else was either killed or killed themselves and in the interrogation one of the first revelations tas 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 b he is not a pivotal figure in the isis ornization. a guy who did not go to fight in iraq or syria. he was a soldier for isis and s the fear now is there are
iraq and syria coming back to carry out and plan attacks but also homegrownihadists 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.
has happened today but that's the mood here is that everyone is going to immediately assume that this is linked if not directlyhen certainly indirectly to this broader mission of isis and other jihadists to carryut 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 acuated 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 airrt and a relatively small building, so if there were people in that departure area at the time they no doubteard 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
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 t to hear from them soon. >> and we're seeing pictures of emergency crews responding. people etional 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'r'r 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 authoriti that they believe this to, indeed, ab a terrorist attack trying to keep people calm at this point but when you have two explosions
people in the departures area at one of europe's maiai airpor, obviously the assumption is this is terrorism. now they are basically acknowledgg that by raising this terror level to 4, according to belgian television, public television there is going to be a press cononrence 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 b bckade 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 tire 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
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,
in fact, the u.s. has three ambassadors here, one for nato, one for the eund 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, iis absolutely crucial. this is often referred to as the capil of europe and so by paralyzing the airpt, 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 tt 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 reallll is a good reminder that how important of a capital thiss is. this airport only sees about 23 million people in traffic each year, but they're very key individuals flying through that airport.
capital and also nato operations out of belgium, as well. alex, at a level 4, any idea what that means, are there more checksoints or what? >> reporter: i don't know exactlt. what it certainly is going to mean is more police, more military out inhe 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 thehe shadows who were being very subtbt suddenly coming out in a show of force. they were be extremely visible, for example, in brussels, the main tourist attractiom is the center square. like times square so i imagine what's happening right now they're setting up a perimeter around that.
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 securitys now 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 interr@ogating 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
his capture, the assumption was not that, you know, t ts 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. ople 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,
you were trying to get closer to the airport from a perimeter where you had been stopped in your car. yowere surrounded by media and as you've been moving you're starting to have smells of smoke 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 soo 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 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 willmmediately raise fears this is a coordinated attack that is under y. that, of course, is similar to what we saw in paris in november with at the batatlan theatre and the biggest soccer stadium and elsewhere around paris. it's still early yet but they're
>> that would be a headliner right now. we had rep@rts of two explosion 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 immediatemedia reporting a ather 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 befo with these coordinated terror attacks in paris. >> reporter: it looks like it's bigger than that. i'm looking at reporting from rtf, the belgian public television station. it's like the bbc and they are confirming three explosions at three different subway stations in brussels so that would be in addition to the two at the airport this morning bring it up to a total of five at four
subway stations in brussels, they are call maalbeek and schuman which is near the seat of the europopn union. if these are confirmed then i remind you this is coming from the belgian public tv broadcaster so fairly reliable source that there are -- that would be four different locations. >> can you give us a sense of where these locations are throughout the city. give us a sense of the geography. >> reporter: brussels is not large. certainly a lot more concentrated than the paris attacks in november which from spread out. all relatively close together, the main airport for the city is just ten miles outside. none far away from each other.
one off the highest security area s then at least two metro stayings that have symbolic locations next to the seat of the belgian government and seat of the european union. these are all not yet confirmed. >> in case some viewers are tuning in at the bottom. hour you're looking at some scenes right now, the aftermath f the departure terminal we believe at the brussels airport. new video in to us. you can see what impact this blast had, i believe those are like ceiling tiles that have come down onto the ground. there are injuries reported there but now the breaking news that we're getting right now our alex marquardt is there at the airport in brussels but saying that there are lal reports saying there may have been an additional three explosions at metro stations all around this capital. >> three different subway ations is the report that alex was getting from the local broadcaster essentially public broadcaster similar to the bbc of bruls.