Belgian politicians demand parliamentary inquiry into attacks

Leading Belgian politicians were calling Thursday for a parliamentary inquiry into the Brussels terrorist attacks, following reports that one suspect may have been flagged to authorities by Turkey.

"The role of the parliament is not only to legislate, but also to control. We have to fully play this role in the terrorism file with an inquiry committee," the leaders of the three Flemish parties in Belgium's governing coalition wrote on Twitter.

Opposition parties had earlier called for clarity on why Brussels attack suspect Ibrahim El Bakraoui was not jailed after being deported from Turkey last year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that a suspect in the Brussels attacks had been detained in his country, near the Syrian border, in June and deported.

"We informed the Brussels embassy of the deportation process of the attacker with a note on July 14, 2015," Erdogan said.

"However, the Belgians released the attacker despite his deportation," he added. "Despite our warning that this person was a foreign terrorist warrior, Belgium couldn't determine this person's ties with terrorism."

CNN Turk, citing Foreign Ministry sources, reported that the man in question was El Bakraoui - one of two suicide bombers who died during Tuesday's terrorist attack on the Brussels airport.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens has denied that El Bakraoui was deported back to Belgium, saying that he was sent to the Netherlands.

Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur responded later on Thursday by saying that Ibrahim had been in the Netherlands on July 14, 2015, but that there had been no reason to arrest him at that time.

Geens also told the VRT broadcaster on Wednesday that El Bakraoui had only been known to Belgian authorities as a paroled criminal who had not committed any terrorist offences.

According to the Belga news agency, El Bakraoui was released from prison in 2014 after serving almost half of a 10-year prison sentence. He had taken part in an attack on a foreign exchange counter during which he shot at police with a Kalashnikov rifle.

His parole was revoked in August 2015 after El Bakraoui failed to comply with its conditions, notably regular meetings with judicial authorities, Belga said. But it quoted Geens as saying that "it is not easy to bring back to prison" people who violate their parole.

Both Geens and Interior Minister Jan Jambon offered to resign following the Brussels terrorist attacks, but the offers were turned down by Prime Minister Charles Michel, local media reported Thursday.

The premier pledged that his government is "ready to shed full light, to resolve any issues and is willing to work with the parliament," Belga wrote.

Last update: Thu, 24/03/2016 - 22:49

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