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Saturday, May 18, 2024
A series of deadly terrorist attacks by the Islamic State killed more than 30 people March 22 when bombs were set off in Brussels' main subway and international airport.

A series of deadly terrorist attacks by the Islamic State killed more than 30 people March 22 when bombs were set off in Brussels' main subway and international airport.

All 7 UW-Madison students studying abroad in Brussels reported safe

After a series of deadly terrorist attacks hit Brussels, all seven UW-Madison students studying abroad in the city were accounted for and reported safe Tuesday morning, according to University Relations Specialist Greg Bump.

The attacks struck the Belgian city’s international airport and a subway near the hub of the city, killing at least 34 people and leaving hundreds more injured.

UW-Madison junior Gabrielle DiBenedetto, who is studying in Brussels for this semester, said she was in the airport that was attacked just yesterday, returning from a weekend trip to France. She said the entire experience has felt surreal.

“Nobody believes this is happening because it is so bizarre that these are places that we go every single day,” DiBenedetto said. “Now, they’re targets of a terrorist attack.”

She first heard about the attack on the airport while in class early Tuesday morning and, about an hour later, she learned about the subway bombing. The subway is located just a short distance from the Free University of Brussels, roughly a fifteen-minute walk according to DiBenedetto.

The students were sent home by the dean of students, who encouraged them to remain at home for their own safety. All public transportation was also quickly shut down.

A news agency affiliated with the Islamic State spread a bulletin Tuesday claiming ISIS was responsible for the Brussels bombings.

DiBenedetto said even with ISIS having a strong presence in the city, especially after the 2015 Paris attacks, she has never felt unsafe in Brussels.

“I’ve never felt unsafe in the city and neither have a lot of people. Sometimes I do feel more unsafe in Madison than I do here,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s kind of just crazy that now, something like this has happened. I don’t know how to adjust my schedule to be any more safe.”

Leaders from around the world, including United States President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and French President François Hollande pledged support and expressed sympathy to Belgium quickly after the deadly attacks.

“The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium. We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people,” Obama said in the Tuesday press conference. “We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible.”

UPDATE March 22, 2:04 p.m.: This story has been updated to include UW-Madison student Gabrielle DiBenedetto's experience. 

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