FBI told Dutch about terror brothers before Brussels blasts

By AFP

Belgium's federal police service however said it had not received any information direct from the FBI on March 16 about the Bakraoui brothers

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The FBI notified the Netherlands about its concerns over suicide bombers Ibrahim El Bakraoui and his brother Khalid six days before the Brussels attacks, the Dutch justice minister revealed Tuesday.

Dutch officials the next day passed on to Belgium the information provided by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had placed Ibrahim El Bakraoui on a terror watchlist in September 2015.

Answering questions in the Dutch parliament, the minister Ard van der Steur said Dutch police had received an FBI report sent March 16 "in which there was notification of Ibrahim El Bakraoui and his brother Khalid's criminal backgrounds and Khalid's terrorist background."

The following day "the issue came up during bilateral contact between the Dutch and Belgian police," said Van der Steur. "The radical background of both the brothers was discussed."

He also confirmed US reports about Ibrahim being on a US terror list, saying he "was placed on an American surveillance list on September 25, 2015, a list made by the FBI terrorist screening centre."

Ibrahim El Bakraoui was one of two bombers who blew themselves up at Brussels airport on March 22. His brother Khalid blew himself up at Maalbeek metro station.

The Dutch minister's revelations come as under-fire Belgian authorities Tuesday continued to hunt for a fugitive bomber, one week after the deadly blasts in the Belgian capital that killed 32.

Belgium's federal police service however said it had not received any information direct from the FBI on March 16 about the Bakraoui brothers.

  elgian aekwondo athlete ourad aachraoui younger brother of russels attacks suspect ajim aachraoui gives a press conferenceon arch 24 2016 at the headquarters of the rancophone elgian aekwondo ssociation in kkel ccle russels two days after a triple bomb attack claimed by the slamic tate group hit russels airport and the aelbeek  aalbeek metro station killing 31 people and wounding 270 others ourad aachraoui firmly condemned his brothers actions saying there had been no contact between the pair since his older brother left elgium for yria more than two years ago      Belgian Taekwondo athlete Mourad Laachraoui, younger brother of Brussels attacks suspect Najim Laachraoui, gives a press conference,on March 24, 2016, at the headquarters of the Francophone Belgian Taekwondo Association in Ukkel/ Uccle, Brussels, two days after a triple bomb attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, hit Brussels' airport and the Maelbeek - Maalbeek metro station, killing 31 people and wounding 270 others. Mourad Laachraoui "firmly" condemned his brothers actions saying there had been no contact between the pair since his older brother left Belgium for Syria more than two years ago. AFP / BELGA / EMMANUEL DUNAND

 

In the meeting between Dutch and Belgian police the next day, it said there was "no mention of the message that the FBI sent to the Dutch police".

Instead it said they discussed a police raid in Brussels on March 15 in which an Algerian militant with links to Paris attacks prime suspect Salah Abdeslam was captured. Khalid El Bakraoui is believed to have rented the flat where the raid took place using a false name.

Under pressure at home and abroad over an apparent series of missed clues about criminals linked to jihadist networks, the Belgian government has admitted mistakes were made.

In the most glaring such example, Turkey accused Belgium last week of ignoring a clear and present danger by revealing it had deported Ibrahim El Bakraoui as a "terrorist" suspect last year, after arresting him near the Syrian border.

The Dutch justice minister last week confirmed that Turkey sent Bakraoui back to the Netherlands in July, but stressed he had not been known to Dutch law enforcement or been on any watch lists.

It was not known how long Bakraoui stayed in the Netherlands before returning to Belgium, Van der Steur said.