- Cameron convenes U.K. security Cabinet after Brussels bombings
- Hollande calls for all Europe to take up anti-terror fight
Terrorists in Brussels who targeted the European Union’s capital with three deadly explosions prompted tightened security for travelers, an emergency Cabinet meeting by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and condemnation by leaders from Tokyo to Rome.
Faced with two bombings at the city’s Zaventem Airport and a subway blast near the EU’s headquarters that killed at least 31 people, governments issued messages mixing sympathy for the victims with a determination to stand up to the terrorist threat.
“These events affect us but do not scare us,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose office is based in Brussels, said in a statement. “We continue our work to deal together with the terrorist threat and to provide European solutions.”
The attacks Tuesday morning underscored Belgium’s vulnerability to terrorism after police in Brussels last week arrested Salah Abdeslam, ending a four-month manhunt for the suspected assailant in the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. The Belgian prime minister’s office was evacuated and EU buildings were put on security lockdown with officials told to stay inside. With the terror threat raised to the highest level, children were kept inside their schools.
“In Brussels, Europe with my heart and mind,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in a Twitter post. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to King Philippe of Belgium and expressed his country’s solidarity, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
French President Francois Hollande called on Europe to take up the fight against terrorism. “We must make sure that all measures are taken here in France and also across Europe to help you guarantee safety for your staff,” he said in a speech to foreign investors at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Cameron increased Britain’s police presence at ports, airports, underground stations and international train terminals after chairing a meeting of the U.K.’s security Cabinet, known as Cobra, the prime minister said on his Twitter feed. In Belgium’s neighbor, the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government was also taking precautionary measures.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the attacks by U.S. national security officials. In a phone call with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Obama offered assistance in investigating the attacks and bringing those responsible to justice, and pledged the full cooperation and support of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, the White House said.
“We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism,” Obama said at the start of a speech in Havana, Cuba.
The international community must respond to terrorism and cannot tolerate it, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo. Condemning the Brussels attacks, he said the Japanese government will make all efforts to ensure the safety of its citizens at home and abroad.
“Standing together in the face of the despicable attacks in Brussels,” Steffen Seibert, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, said on Twitter. “Solidarity with the victims and a resolute stand against the terrorists.”
For residents of Brussels, the Belgian capital and administrative hub of the 28-nation EU, the attacks revived memories of the city’s lockdown after the Paris attacks. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo urged people to stay in touch via data messaging because mobile networks were overloading.
Security was reinforced at Paris airports and delays are expected, Aeroports de Paris, which operates the hubs, said in a statement on its website. Eurostar, the rail operator serving London, Paris and Brussels, suspended trains to and from the Belgian capital.
The U.S. Embassy asked citizens to shelter in place and avoid public transportation. As Brussels airport canceled all flights for the day, a panel on European defense and security in Brussels including Finmeccanica SpA Chief Executive Officer Mauro Moretti was called off, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported.
Pakistan condemned “this terrorist act in the strongest terms and expresses solidarity with the government and the people of Belgium,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. “Pakistan reiterates its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestation.”