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Belgium remembers deadliest attacks

dpa logodpa 22/03/2017

Belgium is marking the first anniversary of the suicide bomb attacks on the Brussels airport and underground system, which killed 32 people.

Solemn commemorations have been held at the Brussels international airport and one of the city's metro stations as Belgium marked the first anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history.

Thirty-two civilians were killed and more than 300 injured in three bombings on the morning of March 22, 2016.

Two explosions were set off within seconds of each other in the check-in area of Brussels airport. Later, a third bomb exploded in the central metro station of Maelbeek, which is located close to EU headquarters.

During the official commemorations a moment of silence was observed at 7.58am at the airport and at 9.11am at the metro station to mark the exact timings of the explosions.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde greeted survivors and first responders at the ceremonies.

"March 22, 2016, the day our lives were turned upside down," said Lars Waetzmann, whose wife Jennifer was killed in the airport attack.

"Many times I ask myself, what if? What if we would have left 10 minutes later? What if we had driven a bit slower? What if? But it happened."

Outside the airport, a sculpture that had been damaged during the bombing was unveiled. Organisers called it "a silent witness."

At the Maelbeek metro station, Christelle Giovannetti, a survivor of the bombing, gave a moving testimony of the attack and her struggle to deal with its aftermath.

"This explosion took lives and dreams, it ended paths," Giovannetti said.

"How can I break out of the solitude? How can I move on with images of the horror in my head? ... But I also discovered and witnessed how citizens stood shoulder by shoulder."

A victim's wife, Kristin Verellen, shared a poem she wrote for her husband Johan who had died at the Maelbeek station.

Later on Wednesday a monument will also be inaugurated commemorating the victims of the attacks.

The bombings were carried out by Belgian nationals, who detonated explosives they had been carrying in large suitcases.

Three attackers died in the bombings, while one other man now in custody has confessed to being involved.

Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the bombings.

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