brussels explosion
Police officials and soldiers stand alert in a cordoned off area outside Gare Centrale in Brussels on June 20, 2017, after an explosion in the Belgian capital THIERRY ROGE/AFP/Getty Images

The apparent suicide bomber who tried to detonate a large explosive device in Brussels Central Station on Tuesday night (20 June) was a 36-year-old Moroccan national. He lived in Molenbeek, the borough where several of the Isis terrorists behind the attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016 resided.

The suspect, who was shot dead by police at the scene, was carrying a bag filled with nails and gas bottles, the Belgian prosecutor said on Wednesday (21 June).

The man shouted "Allahu Akbar" before blowing up the small suitcase next to him, which caused a minor explosion and did not lead to any casualties. Commuters rushed for cover after the explosion went off and smoke billowed through the station hall.

Belgium's interior minister said the country had avoided a serious terrorist attack.

"Yesterday, someone with explosives entered central station. He intended to explode a large bomb. In the end, there was a small explosion to which soldiers reacted immediately. Something much worse has been avoided," Jan Jambon told broadcaster VTM.

Jambon added that police were searching homes in Molenbeek as part of their investigation. Guards patrolled the station the day after the foiled attack.

"We will not let ourselves be intimidated, we will go on living our lives as normal," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said following the explosion.

The blast came a day after a terrorist ploughed down Muslim worshippers leaving evening prayers in Finsbury Park, north London, and a man claiming allegiance to Isis crashed his car into a police van on Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Michel said Belgium would keep its terror alert on level three of four.

Brussels central station
A Belgian soldier stands guard outside Brussels central railway station after a suicide bomber was shot dead by troops in Brussels on 21 June 2017 REUTERS/Francois Lenoir