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OSRx Guide 2: Exploring the recent attacks in Brussels

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016, attacks struck throughout Brussels, killing 32 people and wounding over 300 others. The deadly bombs exploded in the Brussels airport and at an underground metro station in the quiet city of 1.2 million people, home to the European Union and NATO. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, heightening security concerns around the world. The death toll does not include the three suicide bombers involved in the attacks.

Brussels is slowly inching back to normalcy, with the airport working to reopen and the metro service now running. These attacks are yet another reminder of longer-term issues surrounding violent extremism and its impacts felt globally. Beyond these security concerns, wider political implications remain for the EU still dealing with the aftermath of last year’s attacks in Paris and the refugee crisis.


How can you use the OSRx to find out what is happening on the streets of Brussels?



To explore the background and aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attack, click “By Country” at the top of the OSRx home page, and select Belgium from either the world map or list of countries. Next, scroll down to explore the following information on the real-time events map:



The GDELT map provides a visual analysis of news reports about violent events and protests for the past 7 days. Using the example of Belgium, articles referencing protests and violence against civilians are represented by the red and yellow dots on the maps in the location they occurred. Clicking the different dots will show you a list of hyperlinked news articles that provide more context about specific events.

The map below shows the real-time violent events and protests in Belgium as of March 31, 2016, which are still centering around Brussels:




You can click on a dot on the map to see the articles associated with that location, or to execute a Google news query about that location.


  • News Analytics Instability Timeline

This is a live-updated timeline depicting an “instability” measure or average tone for news coverage at the national level displayed in a day-level view over the last 180 days. The higher the line, the more unstable the country is according to global news coverage.

In the timeline below, we see that “instability” news coverage started to rise when the attacks occurred and steadily increased until March 26 when a slow decline in news coverage began:



  • Violence and Instability in Social Media - Word Cloud

This world cloud displays the top themes of social media conversations over the past day, week, month or year. You can also capture the social media conversations from different regions.

The following map displays the top themes from social media in Europe and Eurasia for the past week showing that “police,” “attack,” “security,” and “Brussels” were the top words used, with #:



  • Violence and Instability in Social Media – Volume Timeline

This graph displays a time series of the volume of social media conversation surrounding violence and instability emerging from the country.

The timeline bellows shows a steep increase in social media volume on March 22, 2016, the day of the attacks, followed by a decline:



As always, PeaceTech Lab welcomes your feedback on the site, which you can provide here.


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