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Western leaders vow to destroy IS as Brussels hunkers down

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Western leaders stepped up the rhetoric against the Islamic State group on Sunday as residents of the Belgian capital awoke to largely empty streets on the second day under the highest threat level - reported the AP.

With a menace of Paris-style attacks against Brussels and a missing suspect in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in France last spotted crossing into Belgium, the city kept subways and underground trams closed for a second day. Officials also recommended that sports competitions and all activities in public buildings be cancelled and malls and commercial centers closed.

Western leaders, meanwhile, vowed to stand up to IS, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more; the suicide bombings in Beirut that killed 43 people and injured more than 200; and the downing of the Russian airline carrying 224 people in Sinai. All happened within the past month.

Speaking from Kuala Lumpur, President Barack Obama said the world would not accept the extremists' attacks on civilians as the "new normal," and vowed the United States and its international partners would not relent in the fight against the Islamic militants.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said IS must be destroyed at all costs.

"We must annihilate Islamic State worldwide ... and we must destroy Islamic State on its own territory," Le Drian said. "That's the only possible direction."

France has intensified its aerial bombing in Syria and Le Drian said French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has been sent to help operations against IS militants in Syria, will be "operational" from Monday and "ready to act."

French President Francois Hollande is scheduled to meet in Paris with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, and will travel to Washington and Moscow later in the week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS. Cameron is expected to outline his plan for combating the Islamic militants this week as he seeks Parliamentary approval to join France, the United States and Russia in striking the group's strongholds in Syria.

Russia is also trumpeting action it's taking to fight IS. Last week it intensified its airstrikes in Syria in retaliation to the bombing on Oct. 31 of its passenger plane in Egypt and on Sunday Russian law enforcement officers raided a hideout of armed militants in the North Caucasus, killing 11 of them in an exchange of fire.

The militants were part of a group whose members had pledged allegiance to IS, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in a statement.

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