9 Americans among nearly 230 wounded in Brussels bombings

© Maxim Zmeyev
A man who had been in Paris just hours before the November attacks and in Boston just one block from the 2013 marathon bombing was among the nine Americans injured in the Brussels attacks, which killed 31 people and injured nearly 250 on Tuesday.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombings at Brussels’ Airport and Maalbeek metro station.

Belgium’s health minister, Maggie de Block, said 11 people had been killed and more than 80 injured at the airport departure lounge where thousands of passengers were waiting to check luggage and collect boarding cards.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said 20 people had died and more than 100 were wounded in the subway blast. Rescue workers set up makeshift first aid centers in a nearby pub and hotel.

The latest number of casualties was released by the Belgium crisis center early Wednesday, France Info reported.

Medical officials treating the wounded said that some victims had lost limbs, while others had suffered burns and deep gashes from shattered glass or nails packed in with explosives. Several children were among the most seriously injured.

Officials at the airport said that police discovered a Kalashnikov assault rifle and an explosives-packed vest abandoned at the facility. Bomb disposal experts dismantled the explosive device, which will provide a potential lead for forensic investigators.

There were nine Americans among the 230 wounded.

Mormon Church officials said that four missionaries from Utah were wounded during the attacks at the airport, three of whom were seriously injured and hospitalized.

Church Elder Richard Norby, 66, Elder Joseph Dresden Empey, 20, and Elder Mason Wells, 19, were at the airport in Brussels dropping off Sister Clain, who was on her way to serve in the Ohio Cleveland Mission. None of their injuries are life-threatening, but the three men were taken to a hospital, the Desert News was told by family members, a friend, and a church spokesman.

“They were all injured but getting treatment and doing well,” Elder Empey’s mother Amber wrote on Facebook.

Elder Wells required surgery for burns and other wounds, according to Lloyd Coleman, a family friend.

“Elder Wells has burns to his hands and legs and some to this face,” Coleman told Desert News. “Most of the damage is around his foot and ankle. A heel took the most damage, and the doctors are repairing it, but the family doesn’t know how bad that injury is.”

A tweet from KSL 5 TV reporter Shara Park of Utah claimed that an LDS Bishop said that Elder Wells had been a block from the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, and in Paris just hours before the attacks in November of last year, before being hurt in the Brussels.

A US Air Force officer and his wife and four children were also among the Americans wounded in Tuesday’s attacks, but European Command officials would not release details concerning their injuries due to privacy concerns. US officials told the Associated Press that the officer was a lieutenant colonel and that he and his family had been injured in the attack at the airport.

Some of the injuries were critical, a defense official told Fox News.

“Our priority at this time is the safety and well-being of our airmen and their families,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters.

European Command officials said that any official travel to the NATO hub would now require approval. The restrictions don’t apply to military personnel assigned to posts in the city.

Another person seriously injured in the attacks with links to America was Sebastien Bellin, a professional basketball player in Belgium and former member of the Marist College and Oakland University teams. Brazilian-born Bellin was reportedly thrown 65 feet into the air by the explosion, according to his former professional team, BC Telenet Oostende, which has been providing information on the player’s condition via Twitter. Reports say that Bellin has shrapnel injuries in his leg and hip.

The team tweeted out a picture of Bellin in the aftermath of the bombings that show Bellin laying on the floor with his jeans tattered and blood surrounding his left leg.

A Twitter post from Oakland University’s men’s basketball coach confirmed that Bellin was injured in the Brussels bombing and already going in for a second surgery.

Another basketball star, NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, was also at the Brussels airport during the bombings.

Mutombo posted two messages on his Facebook page to let everyone know he was not injured. One photo showing people walking around outside the airport was accompanied by the message, “God is good. I am in Brussels Airport with this craziness. I am fine.” This was followed by another post with a selfie and the message: “Thank you everyone. I am safe here. God is good.”

Thank you everyone. I am safe here. God is good.

Posted by Dikembe Mutombo on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Forty-nine-year-old Mutombo, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, now lives in Atlanta. The eight-time All-Star retired in 2009.

The bombings came barely four months after suicide attackers based in Brussels’ Molenbeek district slaughtered 130 people, while injuring 368 others, in six separate but coordinated attacks on Paris nightspots on November 13 of last year. Intelligence agencies have been warning for months that a follow-up strike was inevitable. Those fears increased last week following the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, in Molenbeek, along with police admissions that others involved in the earlier attacks were still at large.

Abdeslam has reportedly told investigators that he was planning to “restart something” from Brussels, according to Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who said on Sunday that authorities were taking the claim seriously because “we found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons in the first investigations and we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels.”

After nightfall on Tuesday, Europe’s best-known monuments — the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Trevi Fountain in Rome — were lit up in Belgium’s national colors in a show of solidarity with the country and to pay tribute to the victims of the attack.

In the US, President Barack Obama ordered that all American flags be flown at half-staff through Saturday out of respect for victims.