Thursday

14th Dec 2017

US nationals injured in Brussels attacks, others missing

  • Kerry in Brussels on Friday to discuss counter-terrorism cooperation and Syria war (Photo: state.gov)

About 12 US nationals were hurt in the Brussels attacks, the state department has confirmed during a briefing in which officials defended Belgium's security services.

“We’re aware of approximately a dozen US citizens who were injured in the attacks,” department spokesman Mark Toner told press in Washington on Wednesday (23 March).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Tribute to victims in Brussels: US hit back at criticism of Belgian security services and scaremongering on refugees (Photo: Alice Latta)

“We are not aware of any US citizen deaths,” he said, but added that “a number of US citizens remain unaccounted for”.

“We still have not accounted for every official US government employee or their family members,” he said.

“There’s a number of injured in hospitals around the city and we’re still trying to gain access and trying to determine the identity of those … individuals.”

He said there was a large number of Americans in Brussels because of its three embassies – one each for the EU, Nato and Belgium. It is also a popular destination for tourists, business travellers and students.

Initial media reports said a bomb was detonated next to American Airlines desks at the airport in Brussels.

The reports were wrong. But Toner said it was up to Belgium to determine whether the attacks targeted US citizens or whether they were “just a hit” on transport hubs.

The US has issued travel warnings for Brussels, Ankara and Istanbul.

Toner said his department had no information on “a specific threat” but he said: “We believe that Daesh [Islamic State], al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe … those attacks could target sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants.”

He said the travel warning was “in no way to discourage or to recommend that Americans do not travel” to Europe.

In terms of Europeans coming to the US, he said the Brussels attacks would not lead to further restrictions in US visa-waiver schemes with EU states.

He said the programme did not mean that a waiver-state national “simply hops off a plane and gets off in JFK [an airport in New York] or wherever and strolls into the United States unaccounted for or unscreened”.

He also said the US would keep on taking in Syrian refugees.

He said “these families are the most screened security-wise of any people to come into the United States”.

He added that “almost 100 percent of them” were “victims” who were “fleeing the same kind of violence … that we’ve seen in Belgium”.

Armchair critics

Some US politicians have mocked Belgium’s security services for failing to stop the attacks.

Toner said that even though the suspects had criminal records there was “no indication that they were radicalised extremists”.

“It’s difficult to infiltrate some of these small cells and networks,” he said.

“We have to be right 100 percent of the time; they just have to be right, or successful, one time.

“There’s always a degree of Monday morning quarterbacking that comes after an event like this,” he said, using an American football analogy equivalent to the English phrase “armchair criticism”.

He said that when US secretary of state John Kerry visits the Belgian and EU capital on Friday he would discuss “how we can increase our collaboration on counter-terrorism.”

Intelligence cooperation

He said the US and EU states were working on “improving screening measures and tracking capabilities for some of these foreign fighters”, referring to EU nationals who trained with Islamic State in Syria or Iraq and returned to Europe.

Kerry will also update EU officials on his talks in Moscow with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the Syria war.

Some US buildings in Washington flew their flags at half-mast to show sympathy with Belgium.

They did not make a similar gesture after any of the recent attacks in Turkey, but Toner said: “It in no way should be interpreted as showing any disrespect.”

Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership

Bucharest expects other member states to decide on its accession to the passport-free area before it takes the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2019 - amid criticism of a controversial new justice reform.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  2. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  3. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  4. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  5. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  6. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  7. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  8. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives