US lawmaker: Brussels airport bombing may have targeted Americans

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Inside the Brussels Airport Departure Lounge After the Bomb

WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters) - The suicide bombers behind the Brussels attacks may have attempted to target Americans, the top lawmaker on the intelligence committee in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Wednesday.

Representative Devin Nunes of California said the explosion at Brussels airport on Tuesday was close to U.S. airline counters and the metro station targeted was close to the U.S. embassy.

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"From my vantage point it does look like an attack on Americans. It looks like it was targeted toward Americans to some degree," Nunes told reporters.

Nunes, who has been briefed by U.S. intelligence agencies several times since the attacks, said it appeared likely that the bombers were connected to the arrest of a surviving suspect of last November's attacks in Paris, identified as Salah Abdeslam.

"We don't want to be definitive, but it appears like this group had connections to the arrest that was made a few days ago," the Republican lawmaker said.

RELATED GALLERY: The international security response in wake of the Brussels attacks

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US lawmaker: Brussels airport bombing may have targeted Americans
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 22: (FRANCE OUT) French police officers patrol at the Trocadero Plaza next to the Eiffel Tower on March 22, 2106 in Paris, France. Since this morning 400 policemen and gendarmes have been deployed to increase the security in airports, stations and public transportation around Paris and its region after the terrorist attacks in Brussels today. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)
German police officers guard a terminal of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, when various explosions hit the Belgian capital Brussels killing several people. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
An Israeli airport security guard patrols with a dog in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. After the Brussels attacks, Israel briefly announced that all Israeli flights from Europe were canceled, then reinstated the flights, Israel Airports Authority spokesman Ofer Leffler said. Pini Schiff, former director of security at Ben-Gurion Airport, said the attack in the Brussels airport was âa colossal failureâ of Belgian security, and he said âthe chances are very lowâ that such a bombing could take place in Israelâs airport. Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport is considered among the most secure in the world, an outcome stemming from several Palestinian attacks on Israeli planes and travelers in the 1970s. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A police officer guards a terminal of the airport during tighter security measures in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Explosions, at least one likely caused by a suicide bomber, rocked the Brussels airport and subway system Tuesday, prompting a lockdown of the Belgian capital and heightened security across Europe. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Travelers wait at the counter of Brussels airlines in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. After the Brussels attacks, Israel briefly announced that all Israeli flights from Europe were canceled, then reinstated the flights, Israel Airports Authority spokesman Ofer Leffler said. Pini Schiff, former director of security at Ben-Gurion Airport, said the attack in the Brussels airport was âa colossal failureâ of Belgian security, and he said âthe chances are very lowâ that such a bombing could take place in Israelâs airport. Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport is considered among the most secure in the world, an outcome stemming from several Palestinian attacks on Israeli planes and travelers in the 1970s. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli airport security guard patrols with a dog in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. After the Brussels attacks, Israel briefly announced that all Israeli flights from Europe were canceled, then reinstated the flights, Israel Airports Authority spokesman Ofer Leffler said. Pini Schiff, former director of security at Ben-Gurion Airport, said the attack in the Brussels airport was âa colossal failureâ of Belgian security, and he said âthe chances are very lowâ that such a bombing could take place in Israelâs airport. Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport is considered among the most secure in the world, an outcome stemming from several Palestinian attacks on Israeli planes and travelers in the 1970s. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
French soldiers check unattended boxes left on the platform at Gare De Lyon railway station in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities are tightening security at airports and on the streets of European cities after attacks on the Brussels airport and subways system that killed at least one person and injured many others. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Passengers of an ICE train leave the train at its final stop at the station in Aachen, Germany, near to the Belgian border Tuesday March 22, 2016. German police have increased security measures at the borders following the terrorist attacks in Brussels. (Ralf Roeger/dpa via AP)
Passengers at Warsawâs Frederic Chopin airport in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, pass by an information board that lists flights to Brussels as canceled, following deadly blasts at Busselsâ airport. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
A German police officer guards a terminal of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, when various explosions hit the Belgian capital Brussels killing several people. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Border guards patrol at Warsawâs Frederic Chopin airport in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 after security measures were increased at Polandâs airports following attacks in Brussels , Belgium. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Border Guards patrol at Warsawâs Frederic Chopin airport in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 after security measures were increased at Polandâs airports following attacks in Brussels , Belgium. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
French police officers patrol outside the Gare du Nord train station, where high speed trains depart to Brussels, in Paris, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe and across the world tightened security at airports, railway stations, government buildings and other key points after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 22: (FRANCE OUT) French police officers patrol at the Trocadero Plaza next to the Eiffel Tower on March 22, 2106 in Paris, France. Since this morning 400 policemen and gendarmes have been deployed to increase the security in airports, stations and public transportation around Paris and its region after the terrorist attacks in Brussels today. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)
A police officer with a sniffer dog checks a trash bin at the airport in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Danish police patrol Copenhagen International Airport, in Kastrup, Denmark, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (Jens Dresling/POLFOTO via AP) DENMARK OUT
An electronic billboard displays two canceled flight to Brussels at Milan's Malpensa international airport, in Busto Arsizio, Italy, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
An armed British policeman stands on duty outside as tourists walk past Horse Guards parade in central London, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe and beyond have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe leaves the Cabinet Office in London, after a government emergency meeting in the wake of the attacks in Brussels, Tuesday, March, 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe and beyond have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Police officers patrol the check in area of the Milan's Malpensa international airport, in Busto Arsizio, Italy, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A Eurostar train arrivals board shows the Brussels route is cancelled due to "Security Alert in Brussels", at St Pancras international railway station in London, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe and beyond have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Italian police officers patrol Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Fiumicino, near Rome, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe and beyond have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A Italian police dog sniffs passengers' luggage at Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Fiumicino, near Rome, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe and beyond have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
A member of the Counter Terrorism Centre (TEK) patrols the area in front of the Parliament in downtown Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Hungary raised its terrorism awareness level to grade 2 after a series of attacks in Brussels. (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)
German police officers guard a terminal of the airportthe in Frankfurt, Germany, during tighter security measures Tuesday, March 22, 2016, when various explosions hit the Belgian capital Brussels killing several people. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Counter Terrorism Centre (TEK) personnel arrive with an APC vehicle at the parking facility of the Liszt Ferenc International Airport in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Hungary raised its terrorism awareness level to grade 2 after a series of attacks in Brussels. (Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP)
French soldier patrols in Gare De Lyon railway station in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities are tightening security at airports and on the streets of European cities after attacks on the Brussels airport and subways system that killed at least one person and injured many others. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French soldiers patrol in the subway entrance station in Paris, France, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities are tightening security at airports and on the streets of European cities after attacks on the Brussels airport and subways system that killed at least one person and injured many others. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers patrol inside a terminal of the airport during tighter security measures in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Explosions, at least one likely caused by a suicide bomber, rocked the Brussels airport and subway system Tuesday, prompting a lockdown of the Belgian capital and heightened security across Europe.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Tourist police officers patrol the Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/ Pavel Golovkin)
Passengers queue at a check in area of the Milan's Malpensa international airport, in Busto Arsizio, Italy, Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Authorities in Europe have tightened security at airports, on subways, at the borders and on city streets after deadly attacks Tuesday on the Brussels airport and its subway system. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
PARIS, March 22, 2016-- Police officers patrol at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, capital of France, March 22, 2016. Security has been beefed up in France with 1,600 police officers deployed at airports, railway stations and bus stations since the attacks on Brussels Tuesday. (Xinhua/Theo Duval via Getty Images)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MARCH 22: Hungarian counter-terrorism agents secure the Liszt Ferenc International Airport in Budapest, Hungary on March 22, 2016 following high level security alert following the morning explosions in Brussels. At least 34 people were killed and more than 100 injured in multiple explosions at an airport and metro station in Brussels on today's morning. (Photo by Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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But he said it was too early to know whether the "good theory" that the plot was accelerated by Abdeslam's arrest is true. He said he did not believe the cell was contained and that it was much larger than the attackers who have come to light.

Nunes stressed that it is early in the investigation, and too soon to answer questions such as whether Islamic State leaders in Syria had planned the attacks, whether the attackers had relied on encrypted communications or to identify a third attacker believed to be on the loose.

He said U.S. intelligence agencies were working with Belgium.

"It's a small country. You've got a huge influx of radicals who have been moving into there. It's seen as ... safer than the other locations because the police force is small, so we are working with them as are our other allies to improve their capabilities and share intelligence," Nunes said.

He said a sufficient number of law enforcement personnel were needed to track militant suspects who could number in the hundreds. "It's easy to lose track if you're not on top of them."

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