BRUSSELS – A partial, symbolic airline service will begin Sunday at Brussels Airport after a 12-day shutdown of passenger service caused by a deadly bombing attack, the airport’s chief executive said Saturday.
Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Co., said the Brussels Airlines flights to Athens, Turin in Italy and Faro in Portugal – the first of which he said should take off around 2 p.m. local time – were chiefly symbolic.
Effective Monday, Belgium’s biggest airport should be back at around 20 percent of capacity and able to process 800 passengers an hour.
It has been closed since devastating suicide bombings in the airport’s main terminal and a Brussels subway train killed 32 people and wounded 270 on March 22.
Speaking at a joint news conference, Feist called it “a sign of hope” and a demonstration of “shared will” that even partial passenger service could resume so soon.
The March 22 attacks, in which three suicide bombers also died, were claimed by the Islamic State group. To minimize the chances of a repeat, Belgian Federal Police spokesman Michael Jonniaux said, new security measures have been ordered at the airport, including spot checks of vehicles before they arrive, the closing of a drop-off parking area outside the terminal, and the screening of all people, their ID and travel documents and baggage before they are allowed to enter the facility.
Brussels Airport, which usually handled about 600 flights a day, served about 1.5 million people in February, the month preceding the attack. Feist said he hopes full service can be restored by the end of June or beginning of July in time for the summer vacation season.
Also Saturday, Belgian police, some on horseback, moved in to detain some two dozen protesters at Brussels’ Bourse Square, breaking up a demonstration to protest Islamophobia. Authorities in the Belgian capital, fearing violent disorders, banned all demonstrations after a group of right-wing hooligans congregated at the same square last Sunday.
In the Molenbeek neighborhood, where a far-right France-based group had planned to demonstrate, at least one person was detained, and witnesses saw several minor clashes between police and young people.
Molenbeek, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in Brussels, has been a hotbed of radical Islamic sentiment and was home to some of the men who staged the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130.
The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced that a Belgian national has been charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist group for his alleged role in another plot to attack France.
A statement from the prosecutor’s office on Saturday identified the 33-year-old Belgian suspect only as Y.A. It said he’s in custody, and has been charged in the case that stemmed from the arrest of Reda Kriket in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt last week.
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