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RISK: At least 31 people killed in Brussels explosions

At least one Kalashnikov rifle was found in the departure lounge at the Brussels airport

Explosions rocked the Brussels airport and the subway system Tuesday, killing at least 31 people and injuring many others just days after the main suspect in the November Paris attacks was arrested in the city, police said.

Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block says 11 people are dead and 81 have been injured in twin explosions at the airport, and Brussels mayor Yvan Majeur says 20 people are dead and 106 injured in the subway attack.

Witnesses described the ceiling caving in and blood everywhere after two explosions in the departure hall at the Brussels airport. All flights were cancelled, arriving planes and trains were diverted and Belgium’s terror alert level was raised to maximum. Authorities told people in Brussels to stay where they were, bringing the city to a standstill. Security was also tightened at all Paris airports.

European security officials have been braced for a major attack for weeks, and warned that ISIS was actively preparing. The arrest of Salah Abdeslam in Brussels last week heightened those fears, as investigators said many people involved in the Paris attacks that killed 130 people were still on the loose. After Abdeslam was arrested, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said authorities learned he had created a new network around him and had access to several weapons, though there was no immediate indication that he or ISIS had any involvement in Tuesday’s attacks.

A European security official in contact with Belgian police says at least one and possibly two Kalashnikov rifles have been found in the departure lounge at the Brussels airport after the attacks.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

Shiraz Maher, a senior researcher at The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London, calls the presence of guns in these attacks “quite significant.”

Maher says this “presents an incredible challenge to continental Europe, where guns are much more freely available as opposed to here in the United Kingdom.”

Maher says guns make it “much more difficult to secure soft targets like transport sites.”