U.S. cities ramp up security in wake of Brussels attacks

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WASHINGTON — U.S. cities and airports have stepped up security in the wake of the explosions in Brussels Tuesday, officials said.

At least 26 people were killed Tuesday when three explosions that ripped through the Belgian capital of Brussels, according to Belgian media, and raised the reality of terror once again in the heart of Europe.

One blast reportedly occurred at a subway station, and two more in the Brussels airport departure hall.

Obama weighs in

President Barack Obama, currently in Cuba on a foreign trip, said the U.S. “will do whatever is necessary to support” Belgium.

“This is yet another reminder that the world must unite. We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism,” he said at the top of a speech more broadly focused on Cuba.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has also been briefed on the explosions, according to a Justice Department official, and the Justice Department and the FBI are coordinating with other U.S. government agencies, as well as Belgian counterparts.

On alert

The U.S. was concerned about strike prior to attack, according to another U.S. official.

After the Brussels terror arrests this week, the official said concerns were obvious and the U.S. was worried other members of the terror cell could go underground, or regroup and strike.

Turkey had been the constant threat stream in recent weeks, the official said.

This is an example of the post al-Qaeda world, striking at the local level, in very infancy attacks, and grabbing the world stage, the official said.

The Department of Homeland Security tweeted, “DHS will not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people. #Brussels.”

New York takes precautions

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed state law enforcement officials to “step up security at high-profile locations around the state, including our airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems.”

“Public safety is paramount, and I want the people of this state to know that we are working with all local and federal partners, remaining vigilant and taking all necessary measures to keep New Yorkers safe,” he said in a statement.

New York Police Department spokesman J. Peter Donald said despite the increased efforts “at this time, there is no known indication that the attack has any nexus to New York City.”

“The department has deployed additional counterterrorism resources across the city including: the Counterterrorism Response Command, the Strategic Response Group and Hercules Teams,” he said.

“These teams have been deployed to crowded areas and transit locations around the city out of an abundance of caution to provide police presence and public reassurance as we closely follow the developing situation overseas.”

The stepped up security also applies to the Long Island Rail Road transit system at Penn Station, Metro North at Grand Central Station and other major hubs like the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, according to a Metropolitan Transit Authority senior law enforcement official.

The Port Authority Police Department is stepping up security at its three major airports, both LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, according to Joe Pentangelo, a Port Authority spokesman.

The Port Authority Police Department is also employing high visibility anti-terrorist patrols at Port Authority Trans Hudson line and World Trade Center, Pentangelo said.

Port Authority will have a presence at both the World Trade Center transit hub and the World Trade Center at large, according to Scott Ladd, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Other U.S. cities react

Airports in cities across the country — including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia — stepped up security in the wake of the attacks, though there are no known threats, according to officials.

In Washington, police across the Metropolitan Transportation Authority metro system will increase K9 sweeps and police patrols in the wake of terror attacks in Belgium, according to the agency’s twitter feed.

There are also plans are underway to roll out a major show of police force at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport, in the Washington area, which will include SWAT, bomb sniffing K9’s, and a general increase police presence, according to an aviation official.

At Union Station in Washington, police are pulling random passengers as they are boarding to go through luggage security checks. ‎Not everyone is going through luggage checks, but bomb sniffing dogs are also out on the tracks doing sweeps.

Amtrak said in a statement it is working with state, local and federal officials and “extra officers have been deployed.”

In Boston, a Massport official declined to elaborate on any security changes at Logan International Airport.

“Our airport security program is multilayered and constantly evolving,” Massport spokesman Matt Brelis told CNN. “We do not discuss specific tactics—including those that may rely on technology.”

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is now operating on heightened security alert, according to spokesman Reese McCranie.

A spokeswoman for Los Angeles International Airport says at this time there are “no specific threats” but as a precaution they have increased the visibility of airport police.