It happened in front of the American Airlines Check in Counter at terminal 2. Brussels International airport today. Today’s terror attack was effective, in part because they were directed at people concentrated in restricted spaces — an optimal place to create a high body count with a small suicide device. Targeting the American Airlines ticket counter is quite symbolic, indicating that it was likely an attempt to kill U.S. citizens.
eTN was unable to get a response from American Airlines, but it’s understood American Airlines flights had been diverted.
Starwood Hotels says its hotels in Brussels are in lockdown after explosions, a clear indication the attack target were also against Americans.
The Brussels blasts are a striking reminder of the difficulty of preventing attacks against soft targets. Unlike hard targets, which tend to require attackers to use large teams of operatives with elaborate attack plans or large explosive devices to breach defenses, soft targets offer militant planners an advantage in that they can frequently be attacked by a single operative or small team using a simple attack plan. In addition, attacks against transportation-related targets such as metro stations and airports allow attackers to kill large groups of people and attract significant media attention.
Militants have long targeted the soft area outside airports’ security sectors. For example, a Palestinian militant group known as the Abu Nidal Organization attacked ticket desks in Rome and Vienna in December 1985, and a ticket desk at Los Angeles International Airport was attacked by a gunman in July 2002. In 2011, a bomb attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport killed 35 people and injured more than 160. The departure and arrival areas outside of airport security usually provide a sizable pool of potential victims who can be attacked without having to sneak weapons past security. This is why travelers should minimize the time they spend on the “soft” side of the airport.