Newspapers report that Belgium did not act on warnings. International New York Times (INYT) writes today (24 March) that one of the two brothers who carried out the suicide attacks in Brussels, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, had been deported by Turkey to Netherlands bearing a clear warning that he was a jihadist.
“Despite our warnings that this person was a foreign terrorist fighter the Belgian authorities could not identify a link to terrorism,” Turkish president Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara.
In an exclusive report the Israeli newspaper Haaretz writes (24 March) that the Belgian security services, as well as other Western intelligence agencies, had advance and precise intelligence warnings regarding the terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday.
“The security services knew, with a high degree of certainty, that attacks were planned in the very near future for the airport and, apparently, for the subway as well,” writes Amos Harel in Haaretz. Harel is a well-known journalist who writes regularly about the security situation in Israel.
It is not known if extra security measures were taken by the authorities. A former Heathrow security chief tells INYT that “closer analysis of the suspects in the Brussels attacks as they entered the departure hall (at the airport) could have raised suspicions for a properly trained security officer”.
According to several terrorism and intelligence experts, who were interviewed by INYT, Belgian authorities are fragmented and do not share information, neither among themselves nor with other countries. And there is no effective anti-terrorism coordination on EU level.
A former French head of intelligence says that “I don’t think that the Belgians gave us precise information.”
The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker appeared today to excuse the Belgian intelligence failure. “What country is perfect in the sphere of terrorism?” he told Le Soir, and calls on the Belgian people to be proud, apparently referring to the performance of the government.
The Brussels Times