The Eiffel Tower lit up with the colours of the Belgian flag on Tuesday evening in a show of solidarity with Brussels after deadly attacks in the Belgian capital sent a shudder of recognition through Paris. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assaults on Brussels airport and a metro train earlier on Tuesday – a stark reminder of the shootings and suicide bombings which killed 130 people in Paris last November and which were also claimed by the militant Islamist group.
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The blasts in Brussels occurred four days after the arrest in the Belgian capital of a suspected participant in the Paris attacks. Police in both capitals had been on alert for post-arrest reprisals. “We are united,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a tweet announcing the special Eiffel Tower illuminations. At President Francois Hollande’s official residence, the French tricolour flew at half mast and Belgian flags stood at the main entrance.
Some people wishing to demonstrate solidarity headed for the Place de la Republique, which drew large crowds after the November killings and earlier militant attacks in January 2015. “There is no security in Europe any more,” said Samira, a 42 year-old social worker. “It’s very worrying.”
The front page of Le Monde daily bore a cartoon depicting a person draped in the French flag with an arm around another wearing the black, yellow and red national colours of Belgium, with the dates November 13 and March 22 inscribed underneath.
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The Gare du Nord station in Paris swarmed with police, its Brussels-bound Thalys trains – on which a gunman was disarmed last year – stuck at platforms since the morning. Yeng Yi, 25, a Chinese student based in Barcelona, was among those affected by the train cancellations. “I’m terrified by what happened … Maybe I’ll go back to Barcelona,” she said. Others were more sanguine.
“We’re not worried,” said Kerstin Ruffert from Duesseldorf, Germany, travelling around Europe with her husband and their two daughters. “It could happen anywhere in Europe, so we won’t change our travel plans.” Hoteliers in Paris, the world’s most visited city, were jittery. Hit hard by the November killings, they have been hoping for an upturn linked to the Euro 2016 football tournament that starts in June. Figures from specialist consultants MKG Group put annual revenue per room down 13 percent in 2016 to date, with last year’s attacks blamed for much of the drop.
“The Brussels attacks are of course really bad news for the industry, which has been under pressure since January 2015,” said Georges Panayotis, MKG Group President.