Samoans in Brussels safe

By Staff Writer and Agencies ,

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IN MOURNING: A banner reading

IN MOURNING: A banner reading "I am Brussels" behind flowers and candles to mourn for the victims at Place de la Bourse in the centre of Brussels. (Photo: AP)

The government has moved to assure that Samoans living in Brussels are safe and well.

The assurance made in a press statement issued by the Press Secretariat last night follows the terror attacks in Brussels.

“In light of the devastating news of terrorist attacks in Belgium, the Government of Samoa would like to share an update on its Overseas Mission based in the worst-hit city of Brussels,” the statement reads.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Samoa's Ambassador, Embassy staff and their families are safe and well.  

“It should be noted that as the attacks occurred near or on critical transport lines and located particularly close to the EU Commission and Council, the city of Brussels is currently under lockdown.  

“Based on advice from Samoa's Mission in Brussels, and in anticipation of worsening conditions and possible closures of businesses in the city, M.F.A.T has given its approval for Samoa's Embassy to take precautionary measures and relevant steps by closing down if they feel that their safety and security are compromised. 

“Through M.F.A.T, the Government of Samoa will continue to monitor the safety of our Embassy staff and their families, and pray for the safety of all families and communities in Belgium.”

Yesterday, thousands gathered for a candle-lit vigil in the heart of Brussels hours after 34 people lost their lives in a series of terror attacks across the city.

Moving images taken show strangers standing in solidarity with the victims and their families, carrying banners that read: 'Je Suis Bruxelles'. Young children were seen crying in the arms of their parents as they left flowers, balloons and notes of comforts and the shrine in Place de la Bourse.

Meanwhile landmarks around the globe have been lit up with the black, yellow and red colours of the Belgian flag in a show of support.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the Trevi fountain in Rome were among those illuminated, just hours after explosions tore through Brussels Airport and a Metro station in the city centre.

While the air in the square was heavy with grief and sombre respect, armed police officers nearby served as a reminder of a city still in high alert.

A major manhunt is underway for an Isis suspect in a white coat and black hat who fled Brussels Airport after two explosions ripped through the terminal in a suicide bomb attack.

Police issued a wanted notice for the man who was seen on CCTV pushing a luggage trolley through the check-in area with two other suspects minutes before the blasts.

His alleged accomplices were wearing black gloves on their left hands, which security sources say would have hidden the triggers for their explosive vests.

The two men blew themselves up while the third suspect is believed to have left a nail bomb and fled.

It is not known if the fugitive then sped to Maelbeek station to carry out an attack there just 79 minutes later. 

Isis has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which have killed at least 31 people and injured close to 200 others.

Anti-police terror police swooped on a number of suspects in the hours after the attacks as the Belgian Foreign Ministry has confirmed they believe some of the terrorists involved are "still at large".

At least two people in Brussels were arrested outside the city's North railway station, about two kilometres from the Maelbeek subway. A third suspect has been arrested on a train near Amsterdam and a suspect package at Gard du Nord in Paris delayed Eurostar services. Another man was also taken into custody at by armed police at Brussels South railway station near the suburb of Schaerbeek.

A news agency affiliated with Isis put out a statement, saying the terror group had carried out the attacks. AMAQ agency said: "Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the centre of the Belgian capital Brussels."

Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said that wo of the three men in the CCTV photo "very likely committed a suicide attack".

He said Isis's claim of responsibility had not yet been formally verified, adding that bit was still "too early to make a direct connection between the attacks in Paris [in November] and today's attacks".

There were several raids under way across the country, and he warned media of the risks of reporting details of active operations.

A house search in the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek has "led to the discovery of an explosive device containing among other things nails." Investigators also found chemical products and an Isis (Islamic State) flag.

He said that several explosions heard at the airport after the initial two blasts were controlled detonations by security forces. He warned that there may yet be more controlled detonations of suspect packages.

Zaventem mayor Francis Vermeiren told AFP news agency the three suspected attackers who struck Zaventem airport had their bombs in their luggage.

"They came in a taxi with their suitcases, their bombs were in their bags," he said. "They put their suitcases on trolleys, the first two bombs exploded. The third also put his on a trolley but he must have panicked, it did not explode."

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