BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CBSNewYork/AP) — A day after bombs ripped through Brussels, President Barack Obama declared that fighting the Islamic State is his “No. 1 priority,” but he says the U.S. will not single out Muslim communities for more surveillance.
“I’ve got a lot of things on my plate, but my top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world,” Obama said Wednesday. “There’s no more important item on my agenda than going after them and defeating them. The issue is, how do we do it in an intelligent way?”
Obama addressed Tuesday’s deadly attacks in the European Union capital during a news conference in Buenos Aires, where he is meeting with the country’s new president, Mauricio Macri.
But Obama offered few signs that he planned to retool his strategy in light of the Brussels bombing. The president said his approach to fighting the group has constantly “evolved” to meet the threat and he vowed to remains steady and “resolute.’
The dual attack at a subway station and the airport killed at least 34 people, including three suicide bombers, and injured 270 others, authorities said.
Obama criticized Republican presidential candidates who have suggested they would “carpet bomb” the Islamic State. He dismissed that approach as both “inhumane” and counterproductive.
“That would likely be an extraordinary mechanism for ISIL to recruit more,” he said.
He also said it’s challenging to find and identify very small groups of people who are willing to die in a terrorist attack, but said any approach that singles out Muslim communities is wrong and “would reduce the antibodies we have to resist terrorism.”
Ted Cruz responded to the bombing attacks in Brussels by saying law enforcement should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
Cruz defended his statement Wednesday during an interview with “CBS This Morning.”
“We saw a horrific terror attack in Brussels and our prayers this morning are with the families of those murdered, of those wounded,” Cruz said. “But what is important is that was not a lone wolf, that wasn’t an isolated attack. It was radical Islamic terrorism. It was ISIS that has declared jihad, that is waging war on us.”
Obama said he just left a country in Cuba that engages in such surveillance and the notion that the U.S. would do so “makes no sense.”
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)