EU ramps up security following Brussels attacks

Published March 22nd, 2016 - 01:42 GMT
Belgian security forces stand guard outside the Brussels Palace of Justice on November 20, as two suspects appeared to answer charges in connection over the attacks in Paris. (AFP/Nicolas Lambert)
Belgian security forces stand guard outside the Brussels Palace of Justice on November 20, as two suspects appeared to answer charges in connection over the attacks in Paris. (AFP/Nicolas Lambert)

European politicians responded with condemnations to Tuesday morning's bomb blasts in Brussels.

France raised its security threat to the highest level and deployed extra police to key locations in response to events in the Belgian capital.

Following an emergency meeting with President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Europe was in a "state of war".

His interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 1,600 extra security forces would be deployed to French airports, train stations and seaports, with 400 in Paris alone.

French President Francois Hollande condemned the attacks, saying it targeted "the whole of Europe...Which requires it to adopt the provisions necessary given the seriousness of the threat."

"In these circumstances, the French government decided to further strengthens security measures," added the French leader.

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he called his Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders. "In these tragic moments, our thoughts go out to the victims, their families and their relatives," Ayrault said in a statement.

Ayrault said both ministers "highlighted the urgency of further coordination of our action in the fight against [extremism]."

The iconic Eiffel Tower will be lit up Tuesday night in the colors of Belgium flag: black, yellow and red in tribute "to the victims, their families and all the Belgian people," Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris announced.

Council of Europe' Secretary General Jagland expressed " his sympathy and condolences to the people of Belgium after explosions in Brussels claimed several dead and many injured."

"The attacks targeted European values. Preventing radicalisation should be a priority and embrace education and working for inclusive societies," Jagland told a press conference.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "shocked and concerned" by the events in Brussels and promised his country would do everything to help.

A meeting of Cobra, the U.K. government emergency response committee, took place Tuesday morning. Major British airports, including London Heathrow and Gatwick, announced heightened security measures, including armed police patrols.

London mayor Boris Johnson said: "I want to stress very much that we know of no immediate implications for this city but obviously we're stepping up the presence at transport hubs and major airports but that has nothing to do with any information we've received, it's purely for reassurance purposes."

Shares in airlines and travel companies dropped sharply as stock exchanges opened on Tuesday. IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, and easyJet were both down by around 4 percent in the first half hour of trading.

International rail services to Brussels from Paris and London were also cancelled.

Spain's foreign minister, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo, blamed the attack on Daesh, calling it "a kind of terrorist cancer that is extending all over the world." He confirmed Spain's security threat level would remain at Level 4, the second highest stage.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sent a telegram of condolences to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Vucic said: "The world is shocked by the terrorist attacks, which threaten all civilized values we strongly advocate. So once again I want to emphasize the importance of joint efforts that we have to put in a determined fight against [extremism]."

*Additional reporting by Alyssa McMurtry in Madrid

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