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Brussels airport to reopen Sunday with strict new security checks

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BRUSSELS – Brussels Airport said it would reopen on Sunday, 12 days after it was hit by Islamic State suicide blasts, as Belgian prosecutors charged a third suspect with terrorism over a foiled plot to attack France.

The first three  ‘symbolic flights’ will begin departing from Sunday afternoon, Brussels Airport chief executive Arnaud Feist told reporters, adding that travelers will be subject to additional security checks, as police had demanded.

“This restart, even if it`s only partially, is a sign of hope,” Feist said.

Passengers will have to make use of a temporary check-in facility as the airport`s departure hall was wrecked in the March 22 blasts that also struck a metro station in Brussels and killed 32 people.

Brussels Airport had on Thursday already announced it was “technically ready” to resume partial services after testing the tent-like new departure hall.

But police unions held up the restart, threatening to go on strike unless stricter checks were introduced. A deal with the government was reached late Friday, clearing the way for flights to resume.

One of the biggest changes will be that from now only passengers with tickets and ID documents are allowed into the new departure hall, and their bags will be checked before entering.

The number plates of cars headed for the airport will be scanned and police will carry out spot checks.

The first scheduled flights to Athens, Turin and Faro will be operated by Brussels Airlines and start leaving from Sunday afternoon, Feist said.

The number of flights will be increased in coming days, although the airport will be only be able to work at 20 percent capacity using the temporary structures, handling 800 to 1,000 passengers an hour.

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Feist has said it could take months to return to normal.

The airport shutdown has wreaked havoc on the travel industry, triggering a drop in tourist arrivals and forcing thousands of passengers to be rerouted to other airports in and around Belgium.In the tense Belgian capital meanwhile, police were out in force Friday, with water cannons on the streets and helicopters hovering above after local authorities banned an anti-Islam demonstration and any counter-protests.

AFP

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5 dead as gunman attacks churchgoers in Russia

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At least five people were killed and another five were injured when a gunman attacked a crowd of people leaving a church on Sunday in Russia’s southern province of Dagestan, Russian news agencies reported.

The attack occurred in the village of Kizlyar in the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

CCTV footage from the site of the deadly shooting shows a man armed with a rifle gunning down two women in broad daylight.

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A bearded man clad in a black vest and camouflage pants was seen crossing the street before opening fire on two female churchgoers as they left a service in Kizlyar in the Republic of Dagestan on Sunday afternoon. A woman walking several meters from the attacker was seen rushing away as the bloodshed unfolded.

The attacker was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

Initial reports suggested all five victims were women, TASS said, citing the local branch of the interior ministry.

Agencies

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