Brussels Attacks|The connection between Turkish and Belgian police

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) blames the information officer who is based in Istanbul for the lack of information about Ibrahim El Bakraoui. El Bakraoui was one of the kamikazes in Brussels Airport. Jambon first offered his resignation for admitted mistakes, but it got rejected by Prime Minister Charles Michel (MR). Jambon now puts the blame on one man, not on an organisation or structural problem.

2016-02-15 15-31-20 Ekran görüntüsü
İstanbul
By Laurens  Bammens*

The information officer’s job is to be the connection between Turkish and Belgian police. He gathers and exchanges information in regard to international crime. Here is a timeline of the events:

  • 11th June, 2015: Ibrahim El Bakraoui is arrested in Turkey, near Gaziantep close to the Syrian border.

  • 26th June, 2015: The Turkish police informs the Belgian information officer in Istanbul about El Bakraoui’s arrest.

  • 29th June, 2015: The officer reports this to the terror-cell of the Belgian federal police (DJSOC). They tell the information officer that El Bakraoui has a criminal record and is convicted to 10 years of jail time. They ask for information about his arrest.

  • 14th July, 2015: Turkey sends a verbal note to the Belgian embassy that El Bakraoui will be remitted to The Netherlands the same day. El Bakraoui leaves by aeroplane at 10.40 AM. At 4.30 PM, the embassy informs the information officer.

  • 15th July, 2015: The information officer finds out the next day that El Bakraoui was arrested for terror. He has to request more information by writing. At 10.38 AM the assistant to the information officer informs the Belgian embassy that El Bakraoui got arrested close to the Syrian border. At 10.50 AM, the Belgian information officer reports the remittance to the Dutch information officer. Already one day after El Bakraoui left Turkey for The Netherlands.

  • 20th July, 2015: Between 29th June and 20th July, almost an entire month, there is no communication between the Belgian information officer and the Belgian federal police. It is not until the 20th of July that he informs the Belgian police that El Bakraoui was arrested for terror and was remitted to the Netherlands on July 14th. He also says he is awaiting more information from Turkish police. It is not until after that the information officer ask for more details by e-mail. Even though the Turkish Police already informed him on July 15th he should ask for more details by writing.

  • There are meetings on 28th July, 10th November, 8th December and 14th February between the Belgian information officer and the Turkish police. There is no further information exchange on Ibrahim El Bakraoui.

  • 11th January, 2016: Six months after El Bakraoui’s departure from Turkey, the information officer receives the details he requested on July 20th. It says El Bakraoui is suspected to have a connection with the conflict zone in Syria.

  • 22nd March, 2016: Ibrahim El Bakraoui blows himself up in Brussels Airport.

Interior Minister Jambon sketched this timeline during the general assembly in the Federal Parliament. He said: ‘One man from our police apparatus has been negligent and has not been very proactive in a dossier in which one can feel immediately it involves terrorism. El Bakraoui was convicted to ten years in prison. He sat out a few years and then travelled to the Syrian border via Turkey. You do not need to be active in the terrorism file for long to assess that this might be a foreign fighter [for ISIL].’

Many of the questions from other political parties involved the uncertainty that just one man can be blamed for this mistake. Stefaan Van Hecke (Groen) asked the minister why the Belgian police just did not send a second information request when they did not receive an answer the first time.

Victims

In the meanwhile, almost all victims have been identified. Three families are still waiting on formal identification. The reason why it takes so long is because some bodies were dismembered and in very bad shape. In total 28 victims have been identified by authorities. 16 of them are Belgian and 12 are foreign. The foreign nationalities include: American, Dutch, Swedish, German, French, Chinese, Italian, Indian and British.

A week after the attacks, people are still succumbing from their injuries. A Indian man whom was missing died on the 29th of March. Since the attacks, four people have died in the hospital, bringing the total death toll to 35 excluding the three terrorists.

The Belgian federal police has spread images from just before the explosions in Brussels Airport in an attempt to identify the ‘man with the hat’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8nXQwG1wK8

Memorial

On Monday, several memorials in Brussels were cancelled due to the terrorist threat. That didn’t stop some to come and protest in front of the Brussels stock exchange. Hundreds of protesters came to Brussels to protest against terrorism. They were dressed in black, some were masked and some were under the influence of alcohol. A few protesters raised the Hitler salute. The atmosphere was very tense.

One of the protesters told deredactie.be (Flemish public broadcast) that they were there to protest together against ISIL. ‘Not against Islam and not against Muslims, but against terrorism, but a little harsher than before’, he said.

After some protesters started pushing back and forth, things got out of hand. The police eventually had to interfere and use the water cannon. They cleared the square in front of the stock exchange. The protesters threw trash bins and containers at the police. By 7.30 PM, all protesters had left the city.

Brussels

The mayor of Brussels Yvan Mayeur (PS) commented on the protest at the Brussels stock exchange in Le Soir daily: ‘Flanders spoiled Brussels with their extremists. I intend to seek explanations in the Parliament. I remain confident in the authorities that assess the threat, but I lost my confidence in Jan Jambon, the Minister of the Interior.’

Sources: De Standaard, VRT (deredactie.be), Het Laatste Nieuws, De Morgen, Het Belang van Limburg, Le Soir


**Laurens Bammens, PXL Journalism student and he is Dağ Medya Intern during the 15 February – 3 June 2016


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