Belgian minister blames liaison officer in Turkey for security lapse

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon on Friday blamed a liaison officer from Belgium's police force based in Turkey for a security lapse that put his government under pressure following the Brussels terrorist attacks, local media reported.

Turkey has said that it warned Belgium last year about Ibrahim El Bakraoui being - in the words of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - a "foreign terrorist warrior," after El Bakraoui was detained near the Syrian border and expelled.

El Bakraoui, 29, was one of the suicide bombers who targeted the international airport on Brussels during Tuesday's attacks.

Jambon on Friday put the blame on the Belgian liaison officer in Istanbul, telling parliamentarians that he was "negligent" and "neither very proactive nor very committed," according to the Belga news agency.

Jambon added that a disciplinary procedure has been launched.

The liaison officer allegedly took three days to ask Belgian authorities about El Bakraoui's criminal past following his detention in Turkey last June.

It also took him five days to ask Turkish authorities for more information about the terrorism-related activities that El Bakraoui had been detained for.

Only then did the officer inform authorities back in Belgium about the terrorism link - six days after El Bakraoui had been deported to the Netherlands.

Jambon offered to resign over the security lapse, but Prime Minister Charles Michel refused.

Several Belgian parliamentarians expressed scepticism Friday about the suggestion that just one person was to blame.

"I cannot follow you when you say that there was isolated negligence. There was a chain of failures," Belga quoted Georges Dallemagne of the French-speaking CdH party as telling Jambon.

Justice Minister Koen Geens acknowledged during the parliamentary hearing that the information provided by Turkey to Belgium was not "optimally processed" and that things would have happened differently if judicial authorities in Belgium had "done their work perfectly."

He too had proposed to resign, but was asked by Michel to stay on.

Geens has also blamed Turkey for the security lapse, saying that it provided information too slowly.

Last update: Wed, 22/06/2016 - 14:50
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