The Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah responded to attacks in Belgium on Tuesday by saying Europe was being burnt by “fire” from Syria and the Middle East which showed the growing threat posed by ultra-radical “takfiri” groups.
Tuesday morning saw one of the deadliest attacks perpetrated against Belgium in the country’s history, after a suicide bomber blew himself up at Brussels airport on Tuesday killing at least 14 people. A further blast tore through a rush-hour metro train in the capital shortly afterwards, claiming 20 lives, according to public broadcaster VRT.
CNN reported that up to 130 people were also injured in the attacks.
“The fire that Europe in particular and the world in general is being burnt by is the same one that some regimes ignited in Syria and other states in the region,” Hezbollah said in a statement condemning the attacks.
Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad, refers to jihadist groups such as Islamic State as “takfiris” – a pejorative Arabic phrase used to refer to Islamists who declare as non-believers Muslims who do not share their vision of Islam.
On the heels of the tragedy in Belgium, Syria said the attacks were the “inevitable result of wrong policies and a tolerance for terrorism”, and called for an international effort to confront the phenomenon.
A foreign ministry source, quoted by state news agency SANA, also said the attacks were the consequence of some countries “describing terrorist groups as moderate”.
The Syrian government says all armed groups fighting to topple President Bashar Assad are terrorists. Assad’s Western opponents have designated Islamic State and the Nusra Front as terrorist groups, but say many Syrian rebels belong to moderate factions.
“Syria, which has confronted takfiri terrorism for five years renews its call to combine all sincere international efforts to confront the danger of terrorism,” SANA quoted the ministry source as saying.
Turkey and six Gulf Arab states earlier Tuesday condemned the attacks in Brussels that killed at least 34 people at the airport and aboard a metro train.
Both Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the spokesman of President Tayyip Erdogan strongly condemned the attacks, which came three days after a suspected Islamic State member blew himself up in Istanbul, killing four tourists. Three of the four victims murdered in the attack were Israeli citizens.
The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdullatif al-Zayani, said in a statement the GCC offered its support to Belgium. The bloc comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The blasts at the airport and metro station occurred four days after the arrest in Brussels of a suspected participant in November militant attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Belgian Police are currently conducting an investigation into the incident and are hunting for possible suspects.