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Belgium Marks Anniversary Of Brussels Bombings With Silence, Then Noise

Belgium's King Philippe lays a wreath during the inauguration of a memorial as the country marks the first anniversary of the twin Brussels attacks on March 22.

BRUSSELS -- Belgium marked the first anniversary of two terrorist bombings that killed 32 people in Brussels with moments of silence and noise to commemorate the country’s worst-ever attacks.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde were joined by Prime Minister Charles Michel and hundreds of others at the Zaventem airport in the capital, where two suicide bombers killed 16 people when they blew themselves up in a busy departure hall a year ago.

After a moment of silence at 7:58 a.m., the time of the first blast, they traveled by train to the Maelbeek subway station in the city center to join another group commemorating a second suicide bombing on a train at 9:11 a.m. the same day that killed 16 others.

In a show of defiance, participants at the second memorial held what Stib, the city’s transport authority, deemed "a minute of noise to show that we have not forgotten, but remain standing against hate and terror."

"March 22, 2016, will forever be in our hearts...We stand here united," an airport official said after reading out the names of those who died in the bombing.

More than 320 people were wounded in the attacks, which investigators have said were carried out by the Islamic State extremist group through a network that was also behind the November 2015 attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed.

"There was an enormous feeling of solidarity in Brussels after the attacks. You see it. You saw it this morning throughout the country. It is very strong," said Jimmy Jamar, the head of the European Commission representation in Belgium.

A new memorial to the victims of the attacks will be officially unveiled in the Belgian capital's European quarter, where many European Union institutions are located.

The 20-meter long, 2-meter-high metal sculpture by Brussels-born artist Jean-Henri Compère, titled Wounded But Still Standing In The Face Of The Unthinkable, commemorates recent attacks in France, Tunisia, and Turkey, as well as Brussels.

"People of all backgrounds are here to show their respects and to show that we are not going to give in to fear. We are going to continue to live our lives in a good way," said Rob Brouillette, an American tourist visiting Brussels.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.