Governments respond

Nations step up security, vow to fight terrorism

A picture (left) provided by a Twitter user shows passengers leaving a Brussels metro train between the Arts-Lois and Maelbeek stations after the explosion at the Maelbeek station yesterday. Rescue workers treating blast victims (above and below left
A picture (above) provided by a Twitter user shows passengers leaving a Brussels metro train between the Arts-Lois and Maelbeek stations after the explosion at the Maelbeek station yesterday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A picture (left) provided by a Twitter user shows passengers leaving a Brussels metro train between the Arts-Lois and Maelbeek stations after the explosion at the Maelbeek station yesterday. Rescue workers treating blast victims (above and below left
Rescue workers treating blast victims (above) outside the Maelbeek metro station, located about 100m from the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.PHOTO: REUTERS
A picture (left) provided by a Twitter user shows passengers leaving a Brussels metro train between the Arts-Lois and Maelbeek stations after the explosion at the Maelbeek station yesterday. Rescue workers treating blast victims (above and below left
Rescue workers treating blast victims (above) outside the Maelbeek metro station, located about 100m from the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.PHOTO: REUTERS

More checks at borders and on public transport in Europe

BRUSSELS • European countries have vowed to defend democracy against terrorism after explosions at Brussels Airport and in the European Union's institutional heart left more than two dozen people dead.

"Through the attacks in Brussels, the whole of Europe has been hit," French President Francois Hollande declared, urging the continent to take "vital steps in the face of the seriousness of the threat".

As country after country voiced anger and dismay, Russia and Turkey - themselves targets of deadly attacks in the last eight months - said the blasts highlighted the need to fight terrorism of every hue and across all borders.

 

In France, rocked by the deadly Paris attacks that killed 130 people last November, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 1,600 additional police officers would be deployed to bolster security at its borders and on public transport.

The Thalys high-speed trains - targeted in a previous aborted attack - linking France and Belgium were not operating yesterday, and the Eurostar train suspended its Brussels route.

REMINDER OF TERROR THREAT

The shocking terrorist attacks in Brussels today remind us yet again of the serious and continuing threat of terrorism.

I have written to the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, to express our condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims, and to the Belgian people.

Minister K. Shanmugam had just spoken last week about tightening up counter-terrorism measures in Singapore. We face a severe threat in South-east Asia. It is not a matter of if, but when, that an attack will take place here. Indeed, today's attacks in Brussels happened even though the Belgians were on full alert.

I hear that recently on a double-decker bus, the driver stopped the bus, pointed at a bag left near the entrance and asked whose it was. The tension was palpable as he went round the second deck to try to identify the owner (whom he found). He then explained that we have to be vigilant about bags lying around, because of possible terrorist attacks, and the passengers murmured their assent. So the message is getting through to Singaporeans.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, in a Facebook post.

Mr Cazeneuve said the French authorities have already prevented 10,000 people from entering the country since the Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

  • Other attacks in Europe

  • NOV 13, 2015: FRANCE

    A team of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants carried out bombings and shootings in Paris and its northern suburb of St Denis, claiming 130 lives and wounding more than 350 people.

    FEB 14, 2015: DENMARK

    A Danish filmmaker was killed and three policemen wounded in a shooting at a Copenhagen cultural centre. The gunman later killed a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue and wounded two more police officers, before he was shot dead by police a few hours later.

    JAN 7-9, 2015: FRANCE

    Twelve people were killed in a shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly known for caricatures of Islam and other religions. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack.

    MAY 24, 2014: BELGIUM

    A gunman opened fire at the Jewish museum in Brussels, killing four people, including two Israeli tourists.

    MARCH 11 -19, 2012: FRANCE

    Mohamed Merah, 23, killed three soldiers, three Jewish children and a teacher in Toulouse. A self-described Al-Qaeda sympathiser, he was shot dead by police after a siege of his apartment.

    JULY 7, 2005: BRITAIN

    Four suicide bombers blew themselves up in coordinated attacks on London's underground rail network and a bus, leaving 52 people dead and 700 wounded. The attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda.

    MARCH 11, 2004: SPAIN

    A dozen shrapnel-filled bombs exploded on four commuter trains heading for Madrid's Atocha station, leaving 191 dead and about 2,000 injured. The attacks were claimed by militants who said they had acted on Al-Qaeda's behalf.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The mayor of Paris said the Eiffel Tower would be lit up in Belgian colours as a symbol of support in the French capital city. "In solidarity with the people of Brussels, Paris will light up the Eiffel Tower this evening in the colours of the Belgian flag," Ms Anne Hidalgo said on her Twitter account yesterday.

In Germany, controls at the border with Belgium as well as airports and stations were boosted, a spokesman for the federal police said.

The Netherlands also stepped up security at national airports and train stations and tightened controls on the southern border with Belgium.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said increased police and military checks were taking place at airports and train stations around the country. However, he added that the threat level of an attack in the Netherlands had not been increased from the current "substantial" level.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose country is also on a high security alert, said Europe should stand together against the terror threat, following an emergency Cabinet meeting in London.

"We will never let these terrorists win," he said, adding: "We face a very real terrorist threat right across the different countries of Europe."

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's leading seat of learning, condemned yesterday's attacks.

"These hateful crimes violate Islam's teaching of tolerance. If the international community does not unite against this epidemic, the corrupted will never cease to perpetuate their abject crimes against the innocent," it said in a statement.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attacks and said its embassy in Brussels was closely monitoring the situation and contacting registered Singaporeans to ascertain their safety.

"We condemn these terrorist attacks which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and wish the injured a speedy recovery," it said in a statement.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, writing in a Facebook post, said: "Attacks continue around the world, with today's multiple bombings in Brussels airport and train station. Last Saturday there was a bombing in a shopping district in Turkey. Terrorists are continuing their targeting of innocent people. This is an evil which has to be fought, and defeated."

Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, yesterday said it strongly condemned terrorism and violent activities for any reason, and called on the international community to increase partnership in tackling radicalism and terrorism.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Nations step up security, vow to fight terrorism'. Print Edition | Subscribe