World responds to Brussels terrorist attacks

Summary

As Belgium reels from yesterday’s terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek station, in which 31 people were killed, local and world leaders release statements

Obama: “We’ll do everything in our power”

“We were afraid of a terrorist attack, and now it has happened,” said prime minister Charles Michel yesterday afternoon in response to the attacks at Brussels Airport and in the capital’s EU district. “Our country and our people have been hit by blind, brutal and cowardly attacks. At Zaventem and in the centre of Brussels, terrorists have committed murder. This is a black moment for our country. I call on everyone to show calm and solidarity during this dark and difficult period, to remain together as one in these difficult circumstances.”

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois also released a statement. “Today is the moment for our communities to come together in support of our common values: freedom, democracy and respect for the rule of law,” he said. “We must never give in to those who would destroy those fundamental values. I call for solidarity from all the people of Flanders, for them to support one another in these difficult times.” 

Bourgeois also announced that flags on official buildings would fly at half-mast and thanked security and emergency services “and those people who spontaneously came to the aid of others”.

Salah Echallaoui, president of the Muslim Executive, said that he had “no words”. “We issue a call to people of all cultures not to give in to these attempts to destabilise our society,” he said. “Muslims are also hit by these crimes, but we are counting on people being wise enough to avoid generalisations. That is just what the terrorists want: to pit one part of society against the other.”

Rob De Wijk, director of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies referenced Salah Abdeslam, the final terrorist suspect in the attacks on Paris, who was arrested in Brussels last Friday. “The question was not whether an attack would come, but when,” he said. “It could be that Abdeslam knew about this network and its plans, and the attack was brought forward for fear he might talk to police.”

Dutch prime Mark Rutte said that “our way of life is under assault. The Netherlands and Belgium share more than just a border. We are intensely connected to our friends in Belgium, and hold dearly on to each other”.

“Fanaticism struck in Brussels and at the airport today,” said Yvan Mayeur, mayor of Brussels-City. “This is an attack on our values, our freedom and our democracy. We are determined to defend our society, and count for that on the solidarity of all Belgians.”

US president Barack Obama said in a speech that “the thoughts and prayers of all Americans go out to the Belgian people in the aftermath of these attacks. The United States will do everything in its power to stand by its partner”.

And US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that her “thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded, and all the people of Belgium”.

Celebrities and sports figures have also released statement in the wake of the attacks this morning. “Innocent people once more pay the price,” said Red Devils captain Vincent Kompany. “My thoughts go to the families of the victims, and I hope that Brussels can react with dignity. We are all wounded, but we have to fight against hate and against those who spread it – however difficult that may be.”

Photo: US president Barack Obama and national security advisor Susan E Rice receive an update on the terrorist attacks in Belgium via telephone in Cuba on Tuesday

©White House/Pete Souza/Handout via Reuters