World condemns Brussels bombings as strike on European democracy


By Bryan McManus | AFP

World leaders united recently in condemning the carnage in Brussels and vowed to combat terrorism after the strike by Islamic State jihadists on the symbolic heart of Europe.

As Belgians mourned, several global landmarks including the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin were lit up in the black, yellow and red of the national flag.

The European Union vowed to defend democracy and combat terrorism “with all necessary means” after the attacks on Brussels airport and as well as train at a metro station only a short walk from the EU’s core institutions.

About 20 people were killed on the metro and 14 at the airport in the rush-hour assaults, which came just days after the arrest in Brussels of the main fugitive suspect in November’s gun and bomb rampage in Paris.

In a rare joint statement, EU leaders and institutions said the Brussels attacks were an assault “on our open democratic society”.

“This latest attack only strengthens our resolve to defend the European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant. We will be united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism.”

‘Nous sommes tous Bruxellois’
Across the continent, leaders characterised the blasts as a blow aimed at a keystone of European peace, with the continent already on edge after a wave of Islamic State violence.

The EU won the 2012 Nobel Prize for its work in cementing peace in post-war western Europe, although the bloc has been shaken by the Greek financial crisis and a record migrant inflow caused largely by the war in Syria.

“Our Union’s capital is under attack. We mourn the dead and pledge to conquer terror through democracy,” the Greek foreign ministry said on Twitter.

It added: “Nous sommes tous Bruxellois,” — “We are all citizens of 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 the Belgian colors lit up the Eiffel Tower, hundreds joined a vigil in support of the Brussels victims and flags were to fly at half mast in a nation still raw from last year’s jihadist rampage.

“The horror is as boundless as the determination to defeat terrorism,” added German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed: “We will never let these terrorists win.”

US President Barack Obama branded the attacks “outrageous”.

“We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world,” he said in Havana.

New York’s World Trade Center — built near the site of the September 11, 2001 atrocities — will be lit in black, yellow and red in solidarity with Belgium, while US flags will fly at half mast for several days.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks as “despicable”.

“(Ban) is confident that Belgium’s and Europe’s commitment to human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence will continue to be the true and lasting response to the hatred and violence of which they became a victim today,” a UN statement said.

Turkey, which has endured a wave of bloody bombings blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish rebels, said events in Brussels rammed home the need to combat terrorism of every hue.

“The terrorists who targeted Brussels, after attacks by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in Ankara and Daesh in Istanbul that cost dozens of lives, are showing once again that they respect no value nor any human and moral limit,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.

Attacks ‘un-Islamic’
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country was left reeling after a Russian plane was downed by a bomb over the Sinai in October that killed 224 people, also lashed out at what he called “barbarous crimes”.

“(They) demonstrate once again that terrorism has no borders and threatens people around the world. Fighting this evil calls for the most active international cooperation.”

Pope Francis described the attacks as “blind violence, which causes so much suffering”.

In Cairo, Sunni Islam’s leading seat of learning, Al-Azhar, said the blasts “violate the tolerant teachings of Islam” and urged the international community to confront the “epidemic” of terrorism.

The attacks also reverberated in the US presidential campaign, where Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said the cause of the bloodshed was “no assimilation” by immigrants.

“Belgium is a horror show right now. Terrible things are happening. People are leaving. People are afraid. This all happened because, frankly, there’s no assimilation.”