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Obama pledges U.S. support to Belgium after attacks

Josh Lederman and Alicia C. Caldwell
Associated Press

Havana — President Barack Obama is pledging that the U.S. will “do whatever is necessary” to help Belgium bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorist attacks that killed more than two dozen people at the airport and a subway station.

President Barack Obama speaks about the events in Brussels attack before addressing Cubans at El Gran Teatro de Havana, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Havana, Cuba.

He says the U.S. stands “in solidarity” with Belgium in condemning “these outrageous attacks against innocent people.”

Belgian officials say 31 people were killed Tuesday and 187 wounded in two explosions at the Belgium airport and one at a city subway station.

Obama says the attacks are another reminder that “the world must unite” against the “scourge of terrorism.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the U.S. was working “to determine the status of all American citizens in Brussels.” The embassy there issued a statement telling Americans to stay where they are and “take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said the attacks “bear all the hallmarks” of an Islamic State group coordinated or inspired attack. He said he received a preliminary briefing Tuesday from U.S. officials. Schiff says it’s unclear if encrypted communications played a role in the attacks but noted that the Brussels attacks occurred despite the city being under constant vigilance.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was closely monitoring the unfolding events and “would not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.”

DHS reiterated that members of the public should report any suspicious activity in their communities to law enforcement authorities.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch was also briefed on the attacks, Justice Department officials in Washington said. They said the Justice Department and the FBI was coordinating with other U.S. government agencies, as well as with Belgian counterparts.

Last week U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Homeland Security officials constantly monitor world events and evaluate whether there is a need to either publicly raise the nation’s security posture or issue another bulletin via the government’s National Terror Advisory System.

Such a bulletin was issued in December advising the public that federal law enforcement was concerned about the possibility of homegrown violent extremists and terrorist-inspired individuals.