Policy

Obama Condemns ‘Outrageous’ Brussels Attacks

President vows to provide whatever help needed to investigate deadly airport, subway blasts

Soldiers, police officers and medical personnel outside Maelbeek metro station following Tuesday’s attack in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama characterized Tuesday's terror attacks in Brussels that killed more than 30 people “outrageous,” pledging to do whatever necessary to help Belgium.  

Speaking from Havana, Obama said the United States and other countries must "stand in solidarity" to combat "the scourge" of terrorism.  

His comments came several hours after attacks on the European city’s airport and subway system. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. In his brief remarks, Obama said the “thoughts and prayers” of the American people go out to Belgium.  

The White House said separately that Obama spoke with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to offer condolences and U.S. assistance to investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice.  

Authorities said bomb blasts killed 20 people at the Maelbeek subway station and another 11 at Brussels’ international airport. Nearly 200 others were hurt, according to the Associated Press.  

Cell phone images from inside the subway system showed passengers helping one another, and similar images showed extensive damage at the ticketing area of the airport.  

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers responded with both caution and calls for European countries to step up security and intelligence measures, saying the Islamic State and those they are inspiring to violence warrant greater actions.  

"Like all of these attacks that happen, you need to wait until you get all the facts. But it appears ... that this is at least related to the arrest that was made over the weekend," House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said, referring to last week's arrest of a fugitive from November's Paris terror attack.  

“Clearly they have some command and control capability which would be a change in atmospherics on the war on terror."  

In a statement, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said: “As our countries have always done, we must confront this threat together. We must defend democracy, and defeat terror.”  

Moments earlier, he told reporters that he has no reason to believe there is a credible threat on the United States.  

Neither does Rep. Peter King of New York, who emerged from a Republican Conference meeting to say Belgium and other European countries “lag behind” the U.S. in terms of the kind of security apparatus needed to sniff out and thwart terrorist attacks.  

House Intelligence Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff of California said European countries are “facing a real threat from the thousands who have traveled abroad to Syria and Iraq to train with ISIS, and have returned home.” He added that America and its allies there must “be on alert for possible copy cat attackers who activate in the wake of these bombings.”  

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.