Dutch Interior Minister Ard van der Steur confirmed Tuesday that Federal Bureau of Investigation officials notified Dutch police on March 16 that brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui were being “sought by Belgian authorities”.
The FBI informed Dutch authorities that Ibrahim was wanted for “his criminal background”, while his brother Khaled was wanted for his “terrorism, extremism and recruitment” activities. Bakraoui’s brother Khalid acted as a suicide bomber at the Maalbeek metro stations one hour later.
A spokesperson for the Belgian Prime Minister was not immediately available for comment.
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 minister is dealing with ‘the most important thing that we have – our safety and preventing terrorist attacks, ‘ he said.
Police continue the search for a third suspect in the airport attack, a man in a white jacket seen on surveillance-camera video walking next to the two bombers who blew themselves up in the March 22 assaults. Belgium’s federal police said that there was “no mention of the message that the FBI sent to the Dutch police” during the bilateral meeting between the Netherlands and Belgium.
A lawyer for Salah Abdeslam, a prime suspect in the November 13 Paris attacks, says his client wants to cooperate with the French authorities and wants to be transferred to France from his prison in Belgium. Khalid El Bakraoui is believed to have rented the flat where the raid took place using a false name.
However, the Belgian government has admitted that mistakes were made with regards to evidence about criminals linked to terrorist groups.
Ibrahim El Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands from Turkey a year ago after Turkish authorities found him on the Syrian border.
The Belgian failure to hold Bakraoui prompted two Belgian ministers to offer to offer their resignation and raised questions on procedures to monitor or hold suspected Islamist militants returning from the Middle East to their native countries in Europe.
Ibrahim was deported from Turkey to Amsterdam on July 14, 2015, but was not arrested on arrival, as the police in the Netherlands hadn’t been instructed to do so by Belgian law enforcement.
The Brussels attacks, claimed by Islamic State, were carried out by the same network as the Paris attacks in November, in which 131 people died.