The trial of ten men accused of involvement in the Brussels terror attacks on 22 March 2016 has opened in Brussels, the country's biggest and most expensive ever criminal trial.

The attacks took place at Brussels Airport and a metro station in the capital, next to the EU institutions.

A total of 32 people were killed while more than 300 were injured.

Five of the ten accused have already been convicted for their parts in the Paris terror attacks, which occurred four months previously.

Just before 8am, the first bomb went off inside a crowded check-in hall in Brussels Airport.

An hour later, a third suicide bomber struck on a train as it entered Maelbeek metro station in the capital’s European quarter.

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The attacks were claimed to have been done by the so-called Islamic State (IS) and came amid a wave of outrages in Europe linked to the group’s rise to power in parts of Syria.

Set to last seven months, the long-awaited trial revived painful memories for those who lost loved ones or got caught up in the attacks.

"I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night," Christelle Giovannetti, who now wears hearing aids due to injuries she sustained in the metro bombing, told reporters.

Nearly 1,000 people are being represented in the Brussels hearings, underscoring how many lives were impacted by the attacks.

Sylvie Ingels, who was near the first airport explosion, said she had had repeated nightmares in recent days.

"If I come today it's to make this step and go beyond my fears ... It's their trial but also ours. We are waiting for answers," she said.

Nine of the accused are charged with multiple murders and attempted murders in a terrorist context, and face potential life sentences. One of the group is presumed to have been killed in Syria and is being tried in absentia.

Presiding judge Laurence Massart confirmed the identity of the defendants and outlined the trial schedule.

A key figure, Salah Abdeslam, has already been convicted for his role in the Paris attacks which killed 130. Another man, Mohamed Abrini, allegedly fled the airport without triggering his suicide vest.

He was later captured while wearing a sun hat by numerous security cameras as he walked back to the city.

The trial is expected to last at least seven months and will take place in the former NATO headquarters building for security reasons.

A jury of 12 men and women were chosen from a pool of over 1,000 people.

The case was supposed to get under way in October but was delayed when the authorities had to replace individual reinforced glass cubicles for the accused with one overall glass holding unit.

Many of the survivors and victims say that over the years they have been neglected by the authorities in terms of compensation and medical support.

Additional reporting AFP