David Cameron has chaired an emergency Cobra meeting to determine the UK’s response to the Brussels attacks.
The prime minister said UK security had been stepped up in the wake of “a very real terror threat” across Europe. Two Britons were injured in the blasts at the city’s airport and metro on Tuesday which left 34 people dead.
There are also concerns for David Dixon, an IT programmer from Nottingham, whose family said he had not been seen since the attacks. Home Secretary Theresa May will make a statement to the Commons on the UK response at about 12:30 GMT, following Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Dixon had lived in Brussels for 10 years with his partner and their young son, and travelled to work every day on the city’s metro. according to friends. He has not answered his phone or made contact since the explosions, and his partner Charlotte Sutcliffe has been driving from hospital to hospital in Brussels trying to find him. Her sister Marie Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Charlotte had struggled to get information because phone networks were disrupted and much of the city locked down following the attacks. “Understandably, she is very, very distressed. Not everybody has been identified yet of the injured so it’s just waiting for that process to happen,” she said. “It’s just waiting, which is heartbreaking and very worrying.”
Friend Simon Hartley-Jones said: “He’s a lovely guy. He’s an amazing man who deeply, deeply loves his son and we all want to find him.” He said Mr Dixon, his partner and their son had been due to return to the UK this weekend to spend Easter with family.
Twin blasts hit Zaventem airport at about 07:00 GMT on Tuesday. Another explosion at Maelbeek metro station near EU headquarters happened an hour later. Brussels police have issued a wanted notice for a man seen pushing a luggage trolley through the airport along with two other suspects shortly before the twin explosions.
The two other men died in the attacks after detonating suicide devices, a Belgian prosecutor said. Anti-terror raids have taken place across Belgium. So-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the attacks.
Specialist police from the UK have been sent to Brussels to help with the investigation. Security has also been stepped up at UK ports, airports and other transport hubs, and more Border Force officers deployed to carry out checks on people and vehicles arriving.
The terror threat level has been at “severe” since August 2014, meaning an attack is highly likely.
Alert And Vigilant
Deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu, from the UK Counter Terrorism Policing Network, told the Today programme a similar attack on a crowded public place or “soft target” could happen in the UK. “This is a very dangerous phenomenon and it’s something that we are working very, very hard to stop,” he said. The events in Paris were “a game-changer for Europe”, but police and security services in Britain had been preparing for such an incident since the Mumbai attacks in 2008, he added.
Meanwhile the Foreign Office is warning Britons travelling to Brussels to be “alert and vigilant and stay away from crowded places”. An emergency number for those worried a relative may have been affected has also been issued – 020 7008 0000. Belgium is observing three days of mourning and a minute’s silence for the victims will be held at 11:00 GMT.