Belgium Put El Bakraoui in Schengen System in January, Dutch Say

  • Brussels bombing suspect placed on `silent signaling' list
  • Justice Minister sends letter to the Dutch Parliament

Belgium put Ibrahim El Bakraoui on a border-control information system two months before he and two other attackers blew themselves up in the worst terrorist attacks in Belgian history, Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur said.

“On Jan. 12, the responsible authorities in Belgium put Ibrahim El Bakraoui on a discrete, silent signaling list in the Schengen Information System,” Van der Steur said in a letter sent to the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. The purpose of a “silent signaling” is to obtain information on a subject via discrete observations. The aim is “to get information in order to prevent threats relating to public and national security,” according to the letter.

Investigators in Brussels have identified Ibrahim El Bakraoui and his brother Khalid as two of the suicide bombers in attacks on March 22 that left more than 30 people dead in the Belgian capital.

The Dutch government had no reason to take action when Ibrahim El Bakraoui arrived at Schiphol Airport last summer after being deported from Turkey, Van der Steur said two days after the Brussels assaults. He said no suspicions were known about him when he landed in the Netherlands on July 14, 2015.

Belgian Passport

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a day after the Brussels atrocities that Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who held a Belgian passport, was sent to Amsterdam on July 14 after Turkish police caught him near the Syrian border the previous month. Turkey announced this through a message system used by embassies. Van der Steur said in the April 5 letter that in other cases of eviction the Turkish authorities also have made a telephone call for clarification. They didn’t call this time, though a fax was sent to the Belgian embassy, he said.

A man from Germany, who was traveling with Ibrahim El Bakraoui to Amsterdam on July 14, was arrested by the German police on March 24, Van der Steur said in the letter.

The Netherlands was informed by the New York Police Department via an e-mail on March 16 about the criminal background of Ibrahim El Bakraoui and the “radical and terrorist background of his brother Khalid El Bakraoui,” according to the Dutch Justice Minister. This e-mail also said the brothers were linked to the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

Van der Steur said the Netherlands knew the Belgian police were looking for Khalid El Bakraoui before March 16. The Belgian police gave a presentation at Europol on Jan. 19 on an investigation of the Paris attacks in which Khalid was mentioned as a person renting a so-called safe house in Belgium. It was also known that he paid the energy bill for suspects who were arrested in the Brussels district of Forest and that there was a link with Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, according to the April 5 letter.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.