Belgium commemorates 2016 Brussels attacks

Belgium commemorated the terrorist attacks of 22 March 2016 in Brussels with a reading of the names of 57 victims of terrorism on Friday. Prime minister Alexander De Croo and other officials held a minute of silence at the monument dedicated to victims of terrorism on Rue de la Loi.

The commemoration, eight years after the bombings at the Maelbeek metro station and Brussels Airport, is the first since the conclusion of the trial into the attacks. The bombings killed 35 people and left more than 300 injured.

The names of the victims of the 2016 attacks were read out at 10.30 on Friday, including three people who were posthumously recognised as victims last year. The names of other victims of attacks in Belgium and abroad were also read out. 

De Croo, Interior minister Annelies Verlinden, Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib and Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt laid a wreath at the monument on Rue de la Loi and observed a minute of silence.

Around 150 people attended the ceremony, including relatives of the victims, victims' associations and the CEOs of Brussels Airport and the capital's public transport company, STIB. Earlier in the day, commemorations were held at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station.

Eight hard years

"This is a day when you pause to remember the day your life changed," said Daniëlle Iwens, who was working at a check-in desk at Brussels Airport when two bombs exploded in the departure hall eight years ago.

"It's been eight hard years," she said. "We, as victims, have found a new family among ourselves. Every year, it's a meeting with sad undertones, but one that gives us strength."

"There is still a lot that can be done for the victims"

Iwens said she felt somewhat let down by the government. "There is still a lot that can be done for the victims: files and insurance have still not been finalised. After eight years, that's an additional battle we still have to fight," she said. 

The recent conclusion of the trial changed little for Iwens. "I thought the trial was a bit of a cabaret and a poor consolation," she said. "I attached little importance to it." 

Trial brings 'historical truth'

For Philippe Vandenberghe, who was also working at the airport eight years ago, the feeling is different this year. The verdict in the terror trial has brought "a legal truth, a historical truth," he said. 

"We and Europe must continue the fight against terrorism"

"The facts have been established and penalties have been imposed," said Vandenberghe. "Today we want to send a signal to the victims and all those affected that we have not forgotten them."

He also warned that the fight against terrorism was not over. "There is Islamic terrorism, but there is also far-right terrorism. We and Europe must continue the fight against terrorism."


Prime minister Alexander De Croo during a ceremony to commemorate the victims of terrorist attacks in Belgium and all Belgian victims of terrorist attacks abroad on 22 March 2024 © BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ / BELGA VIDEO MAARTEN WEYNANTS

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