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EU Holds Emergency Security Meeting in Brussels

EU Focuses on Security Measures After Brussels Attacks
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Sallar Idi A Konni

EU Holds Emergency Security Meeting in Brussels
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European Union justice and security ministers are meeting in Brussels Thursday to discuss ways to increase intelligence and security.

Terrorists carried out two bomb attacks in the Belgian capital Tuesday, killing at least 31 people and wounding 300 others. Police are searching for one additional suspect in the attacks.

Officials earlier identified Khalid el-Bakraoui as the attacker in the bombing at the Maelbeek underground train station. Twenty people were killed in that explosion. Security video shows another man walking with Bakraoui. Belgian media report that police believe this second man could also have been involved.

El-Bakraoui's brother Ibrahim has been officially identified as one of the two suicide bombers in the attack on the airport the same day.

Media have reported the name of the second airport bomber as Najim Laachraoui. He is a bombmaker for Islamic State and considered a main partner in the Paris terror attacks last November.

A third man walking with the suicide bombers also appears in airport video. The recording shows him pushing a cart.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks, as it did for the Paris attacks in November.

Police say evidence suggests increasingly closer links between the Brussels and Paris terrorist strikes. The findings are raising questions about weaknesses in intelligence sharing and security cooperation.

These questions will be a major part of Thursday’s EU meeting.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke to reporters in Brussels Wednesday. He described proposals for tighter border controls and measures to make it more difficult to get firearms within the EU. "We need to have a union of security," he said.

Visa-free system

Europe's visa-free system is also under increasing scrutiny. The system already is under heavy pressure from Europe’s refugee crisis.

Belgian officials are being pressured to explain how a terrorist network was able to plot and carry out two attacks from Belgium within months.

Also, Turkish officials said Wednesday they had caught Ibrahim el Bakraoui in 2013 at the Syrian border. They said they sent him to the Netherlands.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters: "Despite our warnings that this person was a foreign terrorist fighter, the Belgian authorities could not identify a link to terrorism.”

Belgian officials say the el-Bakraoui brothers were mainly known as criminals who spent time in prison.

But, EU Commission President Juncker urged people to support Belgium. "Who is at fault in the area of terrorism?" he asked in an interview. "Let's not start criticizing Belgium. I don't share this scorn."

Attack 'almost inevitable'

Michael Hayden is a former director of the U.S. National Security Agency. He told VOA that the terror in Brussels was "almost inevitable."

Hayden said, "If you look at what has happened...the soft targets, the transportation targets, the maximum civilian casualties, (it's) something we could see."

Hayden also said it is "certainly not the last" attack Islamic State will carry out. The group has a "network that seems to be active and thriving in the heart of Europe," Hayden added.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Lisa Bryant reported this story for VOA. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cart n. a small wheeled vehicle that is pushed

tight adj. not allowing much freedom : strict about controlling what happens

scrutiny n. the act of carefully examining something especially in a critical way : the act of scrutinizing something

network n. a group of people or organizations that are closely connected and that work with each other

scorn n. a feeling that someone or something is not worthy of any respect or approval

inevitable adj. sure to happen

casualty n. a person who is hurt or killed during an accident, war, etc.