New York police briefed Netherlands on Brussels attackers

New York police briefed the Netherlands on the radical backgrounds of two of the Brussels suicide bombers a week before the blasts that killed more than 30 people in the Belgian capital, Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur said Wednesday.

The police security unit reported on March 16 on "the criminal background of Ibrahim El Bakraoui and the radical and terrorist past of his brother Khalid El Bakraoui," the minister wrote in a letter to the Dutch Parliament.

The Netherlands had been informed of the fact "that the two brothers were wanted by the Belgian authorities," the minister said.

One day later, on March 17, these details had been mentioned in talks between the Dutch and Belgian police services, he said. Belgian police have denied the claims.

Van der Steur conceded having erroneously claimed earlier that the information came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US federal government's chief law enforcement agency.

The minister was unable to say at this stage why the Netherlands had received information on two Belgian citizens from the New York police.

The El Bakraoui brothers both blew themselves up on March 22, one at Brussels' international airport and the other at the Maelbeek metro station. Another suicide bomber blew himself up at the airport, while a third airport suspect is on the run.

Belgian media reported Wednesday that a computer recovered by police from a rubbish bin following the attacks contained plans and photos of the home and office of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. The same computer contained a will prepared by Ibrahim El Bakraoui.

Meanwhile, Brussels airport announced that it would not reopen before Thursday afternoon, following the establishment of temporary check-in areas because the departure hall was badly damaged by the explosions.

Officials were busy analyzing the results of security tests and passenger simulations carried out Tuesday, the airport operator said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 87 victims remained in hospital, including 31 being treated in special burn centres, while 47 people were still in intensive care, Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block said, according to the Belga news agency.

In an open letter to their superiors, Belgian airport police called for tighter security and asked to be better equipped, Belga reported late Wednesday. They urged entry controls immediately at entrances to the Brussels airport, and complained about understaffing, outdated weapons and lacking infrastructure.

Brussels regional authorities announced late Wednesday they would not issue a permit for a weekend rally planned by right-wing extremists in the capital's heavily Muslim district of Molenbeek, citing a risk of violence.

The group tried to organize the demonstration on the internet with the slogan: "Let's throw out the Islamists."

Last update: Thu, 31/03/2016 - 10:07
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