Report: FBI Alerted Dutch Police About Brussels Suicide Bombers Days Before Attacks

In this image taken from TV, emergency services attend to scene after explosion at subway station in Brussels / AP
March 29, 2016

The FBI warned Dutch authorities of the two brothers identified as the suicide bombers in the Brussels terrorist attacks nearly a week prior to the deadly blasts, Reuters reported.

Dutch Interior Minister Ard van der Steur confirmed Tuesday that FBI officials notified Dutch police on March 16 that brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui were being "sought by Belgian authorities."

Van der Steur, responding in a letter to questions from Dutch members of parliament, wrote that on March 17 Dutch authorities shared the information with their Belgian counterparts.

Five days later, the brothers, along with accomplices, detonated bombs at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek subway station, killing at least 35 people and wounding roughly 300 others.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the March 22 attacks, which left at least four Americans dead.

The FBI informed Dutch officials that Belgian authorities wanted Ibrahim for "his criminal background," while his brother Khalid was being pursued for "terrorism, extremism, and recruitment," according to van der Steur.

The Belgian federal police denied that Dutch authorities consulted with them about the El Bakraoui brothers in the days leading up to the attacks.

In a statement, the Belgian police claimed they discussed a shootout in Brussels that occurred on March 15, a conversation that did not include the FBI report. The shootout, which occurred during a raid in connection with the Paris attacks last November, resulted in the death of an Algerian man who was found with an ISIS flag and a book on radical Islam.

Van der Steur’s comments come less than a week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that Belgian authorities were alerted of Ibrahim’s connections to terrorism when Turkey deported him to the Netherlands last summer.

Reuters, citing Dutch officials, reported that Ibrahim was not detained in the Netherlands upon arrival because his name "did not appear on any blacklists."

In December, Belgian authorities linked Khalid to the Paris terror attacks, which killed 130 people, after discovering that he had rented an apartment in Belgium under a false name and used it to house the terrorists who allegedly carried out the attacks.

The information-sharing process between EU nations has been criticized as dysfunctional after a spree of deadly attacks claimed by ISIS.

Published under: Islamic State , Terrorism