Wednesday 22 January 2020

Dutch were warned about Belgian brothers a week before Brussels attacks

A memorial to the victims. Photo: Miguel Discart on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

A memorial to the victims. Photo: Miguel Discart on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Procedures at the Dutch embassy in Ankara are to be sharpened up in the wake of the row over the deportation of one of the Brussels bombers, justice minister Ard van der Steur told MPs on Tuesday.

Last week it emerged that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was sent back to the Netherlands by Turkey in July 2015 but that embassy officials did not notice the email marked ‘very urgent’ warning them about his impending arrival on Dutch soil.

Van der Steur said he and the Turkish authorities are to make agreements on standardising the exchange of information about every deportation. The email about El Bakraoui has ‘travel timetable’ in the subject line. ‘It would have to be opened to see that the message is regarded as urgent,’ Van der Steur said.

Van der Steur said it is not known why El Bakraoui, who had a string of criminal convictions, wanted to be sent to the Netherlands rather than Belgium or how long he was in the country. He had been picked up close to the Syrian border.

The FBI passed on information about El Bakraoui and his brother Khalid to the Netherlands on March 16, Van der Steur said in written answers to MPs questions. The next day, there was direct contact between the Belgian and Dutch police during which the brothers’ ‘radical backgrounds’ was discussed.

The minister said the Netherlands wants to make concrete agreements within the EU about exchanging information relevant to counter terrorism offences. He said he also wants the US to improve the way it shares information about who is included on its terrorism watch list.

The brothers had been placed on a US terrorism watch list in September 2015, but that is not fully accessible to the Netherlands.

Last year, Turkey deported 33 people back to the Netherlands because of suspected involvement in terrorism, the minister said in his letter to MPs. has been free for 13 years, but now we are asking our readers to help. Your donation will enable us to keep providing you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch.
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