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Brussels attacks: U.S. airports and transit systems step up security

LAX airport police officers with automatic weapons patrol near the Tom Bradley International Terminal on March 22, 2016. A terrorist attack in Brussels has put law enforcement on high alert in Los Angeles despite no specific threats.

LAX airport police officers with automatic weapons patrol near the Tom Bradley International Terminal on March 22, 2016. A terrorist attack in Brussels has put law enforcement on high alert in Los Angeles despite no specific threats.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. cities have stepped up security measures in the wake of the deadly bombings in Brussels, although Department of Homeland Security officials said no credible threats have been detected against U.S. targets.

Airports and transit systems around the country were placed on heightened alert because of concerns about possible copycat attacks. Some cities added extra bomb-sniffing dogs and foot patrols to major transit hubs and airport terminals.

Airports including those in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Miami, and Philadelphia put security staff on heightened alert. New York National Guard troops were deployed to John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, and state police stepped up patrols at major train stations in Manhattan.

Amtrak added security officers to train lines. In Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, passengers and luggage were being randomly screened during boarding, and additional K-9 teams have been added at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport outside the capital, according to authorities.

“The senseless attacks that struck the people of Belgium earlier today have left us all stunned and heartbroken,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement .

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“I have 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,” he said.

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Federal officials said they had not elevated the threat level but that extra precautions made sense because of the possibility that the bombings in Belgium -- claimed by the terrorist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS -- could inspire someone to stage an attack in the U.S.

“In the wake of these attacks, we here in the U.S. and our allies across Europe must be on alert for possible copycat attackers who activate in the wake of these bombings,” the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, said in a statement.

“Europe is facing a real threat from the thousands who have traveled abroad to Syria and Iraq to train with ISIS, and have returned home. It is enormously difficult to track all of them, or defend soft targets like those attacked in Brussels and previously in Paris,” Schiff said. “And as we saw in San Bernardino, we are not immune from the threat at home, even if it is still more likely to come from home-grown radicals than ISIS fighters returning from Syria or Iraq.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) said governments should step up their ability to track and arrest terrorists.

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“Thwarting these killers will require vigilance both by governments, which need to track and apprehend terrorists before they have a chance to strike, as well as citizens, who need to report suspicious activity to the authorities,” Nunes said in a statement.

“Although we don’t have all the details yet on these bombings, it’s clear that terrorists are exploiting security gaps throughout the Western world to commit mass murder,” he said.

MORE ON BRUSSELS ATTACKS

Before Brussels, LAX was repeatedly a target of terrorism

Police release photo of potential suspects

U.S. Embassy is trying to track down American citizens


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