Belgian and other Western intelligence services reportedly had advance, highly specific warnings ahead of the deadly terror attacks in Brussels, but failed to respond accordingly.
Belgian authorities knew that terrorists were planning to attack the airport and the metro, and yet they didn’t do enough to counter the threat, Haaretz reported.
Belgium said on Wednesday that two brothers with links to the Paris attacks were among the suicide bombers who struck Brussels, killing 32 people and injuring over 200.
Prosecutors identified Ibrahim El Bakraoui as one of two men who blew themselves up in the Zaventem airport departure hall while his brother Khalid struck shortly afterwards at the Maalbeek metro station, in the attacks on the symbolic heart of Europe.
Police stepped up a manhunt for a third airport assailant whose bomb failed to go off in the attacks claimed by the Islamic State group which have left European leaders once more grappling for ways to tackle the jihadist threat.
Belgian authorities had already been hunting the Bakraoui brothers, both Belgian nationals with long criminal records, over their links to Salah Abdeslam, the key suspect in the Paris massacre who was arrested in Brussels on Friday after four months on the run.
A third man in a hat and white jacket, seen on CCTV footage with Bakraoui and another unidentified suicide attacker pushing their bomb-filled bags through the departure hall shortly before the attacks, “is on the run,” Van Leeuw said.
Authorities are under immense pressure over their apparent inability to smash jihadist networks in Belgium, Europe’s top exporter of jihadist fighters to Syria per capita.
Broadcaster RTBF said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented an apartment in Brussels last week under a false name where Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found.
He is also linked to another apartment in southern Belgium that Abdeslam and other jihadists used before the Paris attacks.
Leaders across Europe have reacted with outrage to the Brussels bombings, with the EU calling an emergency meeting of interior ministers and vowing to defend democracy and combat terrorism “with all means necessary.”
Analysts said the attacks pointed to a sophisticated jihadist network in Europe, and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there was an “urgent need” to tighten the EU’s external borders following the attacks.