Brussels attacksBrussels suicide bombers were in U.S. terror suspects database

Published 25 March 2016

U.S. security agencies had the names of the two suicide bombers who attacked Brussels airport in their databases as potential terror threats. The revelation would raise even more questions about the competence and preparedness of the Belgian security authorities, which described the men merely as petty criminals who were not on the radar od the Belgian security counterterrorism agencies. The revelations also raise questions about the scope and quality of intelligence information sharing among Western countries.

Logo of the Global Terrorism Database // Source: umd.edu

U.S. security agencies had the names of the two suicide bombers who attacked Brussels airport in their databases as potential terror threats.

NBC News quoted U.S. officials who said that Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui were known to U.S. counterterrorism authorities before Tuesday morning, when the pair and a third man detonated theor bombs at the airport and a train station.

The United States maintains several databases of terrorists suspects, and the U.S. officials would not identify which database had the brothers listed. 

The Sun reports that the revelation would raise even more questions about the competence and preparedness of the Belgian security authorities, which described the men merely as petty criminals who were not on the radar od the Belgian security counterterrorism agencies.

The revelations also raise questions about the scope and quality of intelligence information sharing among Western countries. 

Belgium, because of its history and deep ethnic divisions, has not been a fully functional centralized state like other European states, and the country’s inability to cope with Islamist radicalization and terrorism has exposed deep flaws in the way Belgium runs its law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The AP reports that on Thursday, the Dutch justice minister Ard van der Steur confirmed that one of the Brussels suicide bombers was flown from Turkey to Amsterdam in July, but was let go because neither the Turkey nor any other country explained why he should be dtained.

In a letter to parliament, Steur said that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was put on a plane from Istanbul to the Dutch capital on 14 July, but that Turkish officials did not say why and his name was not listed in any Dutch or European law enforcement databases.

Van der Steur added that El Bakraoui had a valid Belgian passport when he arrived in Amsterdam, “so there was no reason to take any action” at Schiphol Airport.

On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that El Bakraoui was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported, at his own request, to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.”

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