Friday, March 25, 2016 6:42 am
Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign over a failure to track an Islamic State militant expelled by Turkey as a suspected fighter and who blew himself up at Brussels Airport.
Brahim El Bakraoui was one of three identified suspected suicide bombers who hit the airport and metro train. At least one other man seen with them on airport security cameras is on the run and a fifth suspected bomber filmed in the metro attack may be dead or alive.
Bakraoui’s brother Khalid, 26, killed about 20 people at Maelbeek metro station in the city centre. De Morgen newspaper said he had violated the terms of his parole in May by maintaining contacts with past criminal associates, but a Belgian magistrate had released him.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens tendered their resignations to Prime Minister Charles Michel, who asked them to stay on. “In time of war, you cannot leave the field,” said Jambon, a right-wing Flemish nationalist.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Bakraoui, 29, had been expelled in July after being arrested near the Syrian border and two officials said he had been deported a second time. Belgian and Dutch authorities had been notified of Turkish suspicions that he was a foreign fighter trying to reach Syria.
At the time, Belgian authorities replied that Bakraoui, who had skipped parole after serving less than half of a nine-year sentence for armed robbery, was a criminal but not a militant.
“You can ask how it came about that someone was let out so early and that we missed the chance to seize him when he was in Turkey. I understand the questions,” Jambon said. “In the circumstances, it was right to take political responsibility and I offered my resignation to the prime minister.”
Geens said systems should be reviewed but noted that other countries had been attacked, citing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States in which he noted that “there were 3,000 dead.”