Atlanta airport evacuated as US on alert after Brussels attacks

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Airport Security Post-Brussels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Atlanta's airport was briefly evacuated on Wednesday over a suspicious package while U.S. law enforcement agencies and travelers were on edge a day after deadly suicide bombings by Islamist militants rocked Brussels.

READ MORE: Trump says Muslims not doing enough to prevent attacks

Passengers were ordered out of public areas of the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the United States' busiest by passenger volume, but the site was quickly cleared and operations resumed, airport officials said.

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Social media reports about Atlanta airport evacuation
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Atlanta airport evacuated as US on alert after Brussels attacks
There is no active shooter at the airport. A suspicious package has been cleared. ALL is OK!
The incident has been cleared and people are returning to the atrium.
UPDATE: Airport says they've evacuated the north and south terminals and the atrium out of an abundance of caution https://t.co/ttfrWgaoGH
Panic #ATLAirport TSA instructed everyone to run and clear main terminal https://t.co/XuXNJtgsbV
Emergency evacuation from Atlanta airport. I am outside. No info yet from officials.
The north & south terminals, atrium areas of @ATLairport being cleared in an abundance of caution, officials say. https://t.co/kUdf2NPrId
At the airport. Scary!! Had just gone through security when everyone started running. No updates shared yet. https://t.co/SWz9cqRL7a
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Parts of Denver airport were also evacuated on Tuesday, hours after at least 31 people were killed and 260 wounded in attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train, as airports across the United States tightened security.

READ MORE: Teen survives Brussels, Paris and Boston bombings

U.S. officials were trying to find Americans missing after the attacks, which the officials said injured about a dozen U.S. citizens including three Mormon missionaries, a U.S. Air Force airman, and four members of his family.

"We are still assessing the impact," U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. He could not confirm whether any Americans were killed.

"We must emphasize that a number of U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for," Toner said.

Representative Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the U.S. House intelligence committee, said the attacks may have been aimed at U.S. citizens, noting that the airport blast struck close to U.S. airline counters and that the metro station hit was near the U.S. embassy.

"It looks like it was targeted toward Americans to some degree," Nunes told reporters.

Apart from the eight Americans confirmed as wounded, U.S. media reported on Wednesday that relatives of at least four other Americans who had been traveling in Belgium were still trying to track them down.

READ MORE: American injured in Brussels bombings also survived Boston and Paris attacks

Husband and wife Justin and Stephanie Shults, originally from Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively, but now living in Belgium, have not been heard from since they dropped a relative at the airport shortly before the blasts, a family member said.

"We haven't been able to contact them going on 30 hours," Justin Shults' brother, Levi Sutton, told Reuters in a Facebook message. "Stephanie's mom is fine but she was separated from Justin and Stephanie."

RELATED: Images the day after the Brussels attack

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Brussels one day after the attacks
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Atlanta airport evacuated as US on alert after Brussels attacks
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A man wears the Belgian flag as people observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A woman pauses for thought after people observed a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: People observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A sad face is drawn on a Belgian flag near Maelbeek metro station following yesterday's attack, on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: Flowers and tributes, to the victims and injured, continue to adorn the Place de la Bourse following yesterday's terrorists attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: Sonia (surname witheld) embraces her children Mateo and Alessia at The Place de la Bourse as she pays her respects to victims following yesterday's terrorists attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A Belgian flag and a sign readng 'United Against Hatred' hangs from the Bourse De Brussels bulding in the Place de la Bourse following yesterday's terrorists attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: People observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: People pay their respects to the victims and injured at The Place de la Bourse following yesterday's terrorists attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: People applaud after a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A woman covers her face near Maelbeek metro station as she reacts following yesterday's attack, on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: Flowers are placed near Maelbeek metro station following yesterday's attack, on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: People observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: Flowers and tributes, to the victims and injured, continue to adorn the Place de la Bourse following yesterday's terrorists attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A woman weeps after people observed a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: Sonia (surname witheld) embraces her children Mateo and Alessia at The Place de la Bourse as she pays her respects to victims following yesterday's terrorists attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A man places a candle for the victims of the bombings at the Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Bombs exploded yesterday at the Brussels airport and one of the city's metro stations Tuesday, killing and wounding scores of people, as a European capital was again locked down amid heightened security threats. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
People mourn for the victims of the bombings at the Place de la Bourse in the center of Brussels, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Bombs exploded yesterday at the Brussels airport and one of the city's metro stations Tuesday, killing and wounding scores of people, as a European capital was again locked down amid heightened security threats. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
A woman lights a candle at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country's deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union's capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after scores were killed and injured in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
A small child makes a drawing of the Maelbeek metro at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country's deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union's capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after scores were killed and injured in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
Two people embrace at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country's deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union's capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after scores were killed and injured in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: People observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A person flashes a victory sign at a gathering in Brussels following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
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DEATH TOLL COULD RISE

Sister and brother Sascha and Alexander Pinczowski, who had been living in New York, remain unaccounted for, the New York Daily News reported. The Pinczowskis' citizenship was unclear. A woman who identified herself on social media as Alexander Pinczowski's girlfriend said she had been unable to contact him since Tuesday morning.

Belgian officials have said the toll from the bombings could increase because some victims at the subway station were blown to pieces and hard to identify, and several survivors were still in critical condition.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said on Wednesday that one of its missionaries, Richard Norby, 66, was in a medically-induced coma after undergoing lengthy surgery to address shrapnel wounds and second-degree burns.

The attacks sent shockwaves across Europe and around the world, with authorities racing to review security at airports and on public transport systems.

Islamic State, which controls areas of Syria and Iraq and has sympathizers worldwide, claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings, fueling debate and controversy in the United States about how to stop such attacks.

U.S. Republican presidential campaign front-runner Donald Trump has advocated torturing suspects to obtain information on militant plans.

Another Republican candidate, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, called for heightened police scrutiny of neighborhoods with large Muslim populations.

Obama: Singling Out Muslims in Un-American

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, rejected singling out Muslims in the fight against Islamic State and said while on a visit to Argentina that any such approach "is not only wrong and un-American, but it also would be counterproductive because it would reduce the strength, the antibodies that we have to resist the terrorism."

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden said the United States was offering Belgium all assistance to help bring the bombers to justice.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Belgium on Friday, a State Department spokesman said.

While major transportation hubs in the United States were on high alert, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said there were no known specific and credible threats to the country.

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