The Latest: Obama meets anti-terror, homeland security team

AP News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2016 8:12 PM
The Latest: Obama meets anti-terror, homeland security team

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the March 22 attacks in Brussels at the airport and on the subway system (all times local):

1 a.m.

The White House says there's no specific, credible intelligence suggesting terrorists are plotting a Brussels-style attack in the U.S.

President Barack Obama met on Monday with his counterterrorism and homeland security team. The White House says Obama's advisers updated him on U.S. security efforts following the March 22 attacks in Belgium.

The White House says Obama heard about new efforts to share information among the U.S. and its partners to disrupt plots stemming from territory controlled by the Islamic State group. Obama was also briefed on how IS is using the Internet to recruit fighters and incite violence in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The White House says Obama directed his team to keep stepping up the fight against IS.

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9:40 p.m.

A religious service involving all major faiths has been held at the Brussels cathedral to commemorate the victims of last week's attacks that killed 35 people.

The service, which was held on Easter Monday, began with people directly affected by the attack, including police and airport staff, walking through the cathedral with candles.

Kamar Takkal, representing the Muslim community, said the service in "beautiful Brussels" was "symbolic."

"To all the victims, to all those who suffer around the world, dear God offer them the patience to overcome to sorrow and painful moment," she said.

Several people injured in the attacks were also present.

"I'm mainly here for the others," said airport employee Geoffroy LeMaitre. "I am saved so I wanted to be here for the others."

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8:40 p.m.

The White House says Europe must still do more to improve security measures to prevent incidents like the March 22 attacks in Brussels.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest says President Barack Obama made that point after the November attacks in Paris. He said the president had pushed for European security agencies to improve information-sharing among themselves and also with the U.S.

Earnest says there's been some progress made. But he says there is more that "can and must be done."

The White House isn't commenting specifically on a judge's order to release a man detained in connection with the Brussels attacks. The U.S. says it's continuing to offer assistance to Belgian authorities.

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5:15 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pressed ahead with his criticism of European authorities' handling of extremists flagged by Turkey, saying they are deliberately allowing them to travel freely.

Erdogan has accused Dutch and Belgian authorities of incompetence for not taking any action against Ibrahim El Bakraoui despite Turkish warnings that he was a "foreign terrorist fighter." El Bakraoui later turned out to be one of the suicide bombers at Brussels Airport.

On Monday, Erdogan accused European authorities of ignoring Turkish requests that people flagged by Turkey be prevented from traveling out of their countries. He says European countries are still allowing fighters to travel to Turkey and Syria.

Erdogan says "this was their way of seeing things: these names linked to terror organizations should go to Turkey, to Syria or Iraq and do whatever they want to do as long as they don't carry out any acts on our soils."

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4:45 p.m.

A man detained by Belgian authorities in connection with the Brussels attacks has been released by a judge.

The judge found there was no evidence to justify holding Faycal C., the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Monday.

Prosecutors had reported earlier that Fayal C. was facing preliminary charges of "involvement in a terrorist group, terrorist murder and attempted terrorist murder."

Belgian media had claimed the man — who they identified as Fayal Cheffou — had been seen on video with the suicide bombers at the airport on Tuesday morning before the attacks.

But police on Monday released airport surveillance video of a man with the two airport suicide bombers and asked for the public's help in establishing his identity.

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1:10 p.m.

The website of Belgium's Federal Police on Monday began carrying a 32-second video of a mysterious man in a hat suspected of having taking part in the March 22 bombing of Brussels Airport.

"The police are seeking to identify this man," the site says.

The implication is that the suspected accomplice of the two airport suicide bombers could still be at large. The video shows the man, wearing glasses and a white jacket, wheeling a baggage cart through the airport along with the two men identified by Belgian authorities as the bombers.

Belgian media previous reported that Faycal Cheffou — reported to be the man identified by authorities as Faycal C. who is in custody and has been charged with terror offenses — had been identified as the suspect who escaped from Brussels Airport following the bombing. Police had refused to confirm that report.

Police did not say why they had released the video.

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12:15 p.m.

The Belgian health minister says four of those wounded in the suicide bombings last week have died in the hospital, bringing the number of victims of the bombings to 35.

The minister, Maggie De Block, made the announcement on her Twitter account Monday morning.

She posted: "Four patients deceased in hospital. Medical teams did all possible. Total victims: 35. Courage to all the families."

Suicide bombers hit Brussels Airport and a city subway train on March 22 in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

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11:25 a.m.

Belgian prosecutors say three people have been ordered held on charges of participating in terrorist group activities

They were among four people detained during Sunday searches in Brussels and the northern cities of Mechelen and Duffel.

Belgian prosecutors did not release details on the alleged terrorist actions or whether they were linked to the March 22 suicide bombings at Brussels airport and in the Brussels subway.

The fourth person has been released without charge, according to a statement from the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office Monday.

Those charged by the investigating magistrate were identified only as Yassine A., Mohamed B. and Aboubaker O.

10:45 a.m.

A week after devastating suicide bomb attacks, Brussels Airport will test its capacity to partially resume passenger service. But it's too early to say when service might actually resume, an airport official said Monday.

Florence Muls, the airport's external communications manager, said 800 staff members on Tuesday will test temporary infrastructure and new arrangements designed for passenger check-in. The Belgian government must approve the new system, Muls said, before Brussels Airport can resume handling passenger traffic.

Two suicide bombers on March 22 caused great damage to the airport's departure hall, and along with another suicide bomber who blew himself up on a Brussels subway train, killed at least 31 people and injured some 270.