2016 Brussels bombings: Ten men go on trial over airport and metro attacks

2016 Brussels bombings: Ten men go on trial over airport and metro attacks

Six years after the 2016 Brussels terror attacks, Belgium’s largest-ever criminal trial has begun in the capital.

Ten men are accused of being members of the terrorist cell that carried out the worst peacetime attack in Belgian history.

A total of 32 people were killed and over 340 others injured in rush-hour bombings at Brussels’ airport and on the city’s metro system.

The suspects include Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the Belgium-based cell that killed 130 people in the Paris attacks in November 2015.

Another defendant, Mohamed Abrini – known as the "man in the hat" – is suspected of abandoning his explosive device at the airport during the attacks.

Credit: AP
The blown out windows of Zaventem airport are seen after a deadly attack in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - Credit: AP

The eight other suspects are accused of supplying the Brussels attackers with weapons and logistical assistance or supporting the terrorist cell.

Nine of the men face life imprisonment if convicted, while the tenth could be jailed for up to 10 years.

One of the ten defendants is presumed dead in Syria and will be tried in absentia by the Brussels court of assizes.

The attacks in Brussels came just four days after Belgian police had arrested Abdeslam at an apartment in Brussels’ Molenbeek district.

On the morning of 22 March, two suicide bombers detonated devices in the departure lounge at Brussels-Zaventem international airport. Sixteen people were killed in the two blasts and dozens of others were injured.

A third suspected bomber – Abrini -- was seen on CCTV dropping a large bag, containing explosives, before leaving the terminal.

Martin Meissner/AP
A banner for the victims of the bombings reads " I am Brussels" at the Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. - Martin Meissner/AP

Minutes later, another suicide bomb was detonated on a metro train, as it was just about to leave Maelbeek station in central Brussels, near the city’s EU quarter. Sixteen more people were killed.

The attacks were later claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group over Belgium's “war against Islam”.

Hundreds of witnesses and victims will testify at the trial in Brussels, which is expected to last until June.