Belgian police are hunting a third man filmed with two suicide bombers at Brussels airport and believe another suspect may have been involved in the blast at a metro station, as evidence mounted that all were part of the same Islamic State network responsible for last November’s carnage in Paris.
European Union Justice and Interior Ministers were meeting in an emergency session on Thursday as pressure intensified on the bloc to improve cooperation against terror attacks in the wake of the bombings in the Belgian capital, which killed at least 31 people and injured 270 more from nearly 40 countries.
Turkey has accused Belgium of ignoring warnings about Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, who was deported from Turkey last year as a suspected foreign fighter in Syria and has now been identified as one of the two suicide bombers who blew themselves and 11 other people up at the airport shortly before 8am on Tuesday.
Belgium refutes criticism
Belgian officials resisted Turkish criticism of their inaction following Ibrahim el-Bakraoui’s deportation last July, pointing out that suspected militants expelled from Turkey cannot be detained without evidence they have committed a crime.
The Justice Minister, Koen Geens, denied the 30-year-old Belgian citizen had been flagged as a possible terrorist. “At that time, he was not known here for terrorism,” Mr. Geens said. “He was a common law criminal out on parole.”
As criticism mounted of Belgium’s apparent inability to smash domestic extremist networks, the country’s Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, insisted security always had to be balanced with civil rights.
The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also came to Belgium’s defence., telling the Flemish-language daily De Standaard : “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. There was terrorism in Britain and in Germany in the 1970s and 1980. There was terrorism in Spain, in Italy and much more recently in France. People should stop lecturing Belgium.”
The U.S. Defence Secretary, Ash Carter, said events in the headquarters city of the EU and NATO showed more needed to be done to help American efforts to combat Islamic State. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2016