Monday

16th Jul 2018

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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • 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.”

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Polish PM defends judicial witch-hunt

Poland's judicial purge was meant to punish former communists, its PM has said, in an angry EU debate that saw him ultimately promise to respect EU court rulings.

EU leaders still in search of migration plan

Select EU leaders met amid rising tension over migration, with Italy's PM, who had threatened to boycott the summit, putting forward a new plans to stop boats from leaving Libya.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. VW owners to get diesel software update free until 2020
  2. Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, Commission says
  3. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  4. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  5. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  6. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  7. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  8. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  2. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  3. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  4. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  5. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  6. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  7. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit
  8. Trump wades into Brexit after Nato fiasco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us