Belgians gathered today in solidarity and defiance in central Brussels to remember victims of the country’s worst-ever terror attacks as prosecutors charged a second man over a foiled attack in France.
As mourners gathered at a square which has been transformed into a shrine to the victims of Tuesday’s attacks on the airport and the metro system, prosecutors said they had charged a second man with involvement in a terror group over a foiled plot to strike France. It was the latest piece in the puzzle of the jihadist networks straddling France and Belgium.
The suspect, Abderamane A, was the second person to be charged by Brussels prosecutors in as many days in connection with Thursday’s arrest of a man in Paris who had assault weapons and explosives in his flat and who was allegedly plotting a new attack in France.
In a bid to allow police to devote all their resources to tracking down the Islamic State cell linked to Tuesday’s Brussels attacks and the November carnage in Paris, officials asked organisers to postpone an Easter Sunday march.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Crisis Centre said 28 people had died in the airport and metro attacks, down from an initial toll of 31 which had included the three suicide bombers.
Of the 28 who died, 24 have been identified, among them 13 Belgians and 11 foreign nationals, it said. A total 340 people from 19 countries were wounded, of whom 101 remain in hospital - 62 of them in intensive care.
“Not in the name of Islam,” read one banner on the columns of the stately former stock exchange building in Brussels city centre where people, some tearful, milled around under the watchful gaze of heavily-armed police and soldiers.
“This is our dream,” read another among a sea of flags from all over the world, as the carpet of flowers, candles and messages grew steadily larger.
“I come here every evening and stay here until midnight in a gesture of solidarity,” said Mohamed Said Si Ahmed Haddi, 50, a Belgian from Algeria.
“We must not hide away.” In a homily at the nearby medieval cathedral of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Malines-Brussels Jozef de Kesel said the attacks “defy understanding.”
“We are confronted with evil on an unimaginable scale which causes so much innocent and useless suffering,” the Belga news agency quoted de Kesel as saying. “Easter celebrates victory over evil,” he added.