Belgium’s Justice Minister said Thursday that the Belgian government should have acted on a request by Turkey last June to take one of the bombers in Tuesday’s attacks into custody.
Koen Geens confirmed Thursday that Turkish police had previously arrested Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, and said authorities had not heeded their recommendation to detain el-Bakraoui in Belgium, the New York Times reports.
This marks the first major admission from a Belgian official that the government made any mistakes that could have led to the terror attacks.
“What’s essential in the story is that with the passing on of the information from Turkey and with the passing on of the information within Belgium, we have been slower than one could have expected under those circumstances,” said Geens. “So, the information was passed on, but we have not been diligent, or probably not.”
The March 22 attacks in Brussels have highlighted security challenges facing Europe, and revealed how Belgium has struggled to rise to those challenges.
Between the time of Salah Abdeslam’s capture on Friday and the attacks Tuesday morning, police authorities questioned the Paris suspect for only one hour on Saturday, Politico reports, because Abdeslam was fatigued and in recovery after suffering a gunshot wound to his leg during his capture.
Both Geens and Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon offered to step down on Thursday, but Prime Minister Charles Michel did not accept their resignations.