Belgium admits: We messed up

Government acknowledges it flubbed warnings from Turkey on Brussels bombers, as PM refuses resignations of senior ministers.

Ari Yashar ,

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel

The government of Belgium on Thursday admitted it could have done more to prevent Tuesday's Islamic State (ISIS) bombings in Brussels, as Prime Minister Charles Michel refused to accept the resignation tendered by two ministers over the fiasco.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens offered to step down in recognition of their shortcomings in not stopping the bombings at Zaventem Airport and a metro station, in which at least 31 people were murdered and 250 others were wounded.

After having his resignation rejected, Geens admitted to reporters that authorities "don't have to be proud about what happened," and added, "we perhaps did things we should not have done," reports Associated Press on Friday.

Serious questions about the handling of the threat were raised after it was revealed the attack was conducted by the same ISIS cell responsible for last November's Paris attacks in which 130 people were murdered. Leaders of the cell hailed from the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels.

The ministers also specifically noted on Turkey's revelation Wednesday that it had warned Belgium last year about Brahim El Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers, after he was arrested infiltrating the border with Syria. However, Belgium failed to act on the warnings.

Speaking on Belgian TV about who was to blame for the failure to act on the Turkish warning, Geens said, "it is clear it is not one single person, but it is true that we could have expected from Ankara or Istanbul a more diligent communication, we think, that perhaps could have avoided certain things."

"Our own services should perhaps have been more critical about the place where the person had been detained," he added, noting on the Turkish border with Syria. "We have to be very self-critical."

In fact Turkey was not the only country to reveal it had warned Belgium.

Reports on Wednesday found that Israel had provided Belgium with concrete information on security breaches at the Zaventem Airport, and informed them that "there are serious security deficiencies at the airport in Brussels."

Then on Thursday sources revealed the US had the two suicide bomber El Bakraoui brothers on its terror watch lists.

The two brothers had tracked the Belgian nuclear chief and secretly video taped him, evidently as part of preparations for an attack on nuclear reactors in the country that in the end was scrapped as the terrorists rushed their plans ahead, following the arrest last Friday of Salah Abdeslam, a key leader of the Paris attacks.