Capitol and Metro transit police were stepping up patrols Tuesday morning after coordinated terror attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels, but officials said there was no evidence of increased threat to the Capitol.
The Department of Homeland Security has not yet changed its national threat level but is closely monitoring the situation in Brussels and is in touch with counterparts in the region, said DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said he has received updates from the intelligence community. “We do not have all of the information at hand right now…,” Ryan told reporters, adding “I have absolutely no reason to believe there is a threat here.”
Locally, Metro said that there would be additional K-9 units in use on the national capital region’s rail system, and Capitol Police officers are connecting with partner agencies “to obtain real time intelligence updates to maintain awareness of global events,” according to a statement.
Traffic was briefly stalled near the Capitol Tuesday morning as Capitol Police examined a suspicious package outside the O’Neill Federal Office Building. After all tests came back negative, the area was reopened for traffic.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said her department is also coordinating with the appropriate local and federal agencies.
In Cuba, President Barack Obama began his remarks to the Cuban people by saying the “thoughts and prayers of the American people” are with Belgium as it deals with Tuesday’s apparent terrorist attacks.
He called the attacks”outrageous” and said the United States and other nations must “stand in solidarity” to combat “the scourge” of terrorism. He said the U.S. will do whatever it must to help Belgium authorities.
Presidential candidates weighed in , as well, with GOP front-runner Donald Trump reiterating his support for closing U.S. borders and waterboarding terror suspects
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are on a visit to Europe, but according to an aide to a senator on the trip, the lawmakers are not currently in Belgium, and the country is not on the planned itinerary.
“U.S. officials have been and will continue to be in close contact with their Belgian counterparts, and we will provide additional information and updates as we are able to do so,” the official said.
The coordinated attacks at the Brussels international airport and a city metro station came just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured there.
Authorities say there were two explosions at the airport and another device was neutralized by a bomb squad. The metro station explosion was believed to be the work of a suicide bomber. More than 100 people are said to be injured in the airport and subway explosions. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The attacks coincided with Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
Carter said the Pentagon is continuing to monitor developments in Belgium, including ensuring all U.S. personnel and citizens are accounted for, and is ready to provide assistance.
“In the face of these acts of terrorism, the United States stands in strong solidarity with our ally, Belgium,” he told the panel, urging them to shift additional money toward the fight against the Islamic State.
Sitting alongside Carter, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr . tied the attacks to the fight against the terrorist group. “This morning is another reminder there is a long fight ahead,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry said he is carefully monitoring the situation. “The United States stands with people of Belgium,” Kerry said in a statement. “We are ready to support the investigation as appropriate.”
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said in a statement that increased vigilance would be important in the aftermath of the Brussels attack.
“We here in the U.S. and our allies across Europe must be on alert for possible copy-cat attackers who activate in the wake of these bombings,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif. “We must continue to build the capacity of our partners and allies to improve their intelligence and law enforcement capabilities and track terrorists as they travel, and we must go after terrorist safe havens whether in Iraq, Syria, or places like Libya.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, promised to deliver justice “swiftly and in close concert with our allies.”
“This was an attack against us all, and it will redouble our determination to win the war against Islamist terror,” he said in a statement.
Megan Scully, Lindsey McPherson, Bridget Bowman, Rema Rahman, Gopal Ratnam and Warren Rojas contributed.
Contact Lesniewski at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 22, 2016
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