The Slatest

Belgian Authorities Missed a Lot of Opportunities Before Brussels Attack

Belgian police in Brussels’ Place de la Bourse on Sunday.

Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

The New York Times has a piece Monday on warning signs that Belgian police and other individuals in position to intervene missed before last week’s Brussels terror bombings. Taken in combination with previous reports, the timeline that emerges is pretty frustrating. Among the reports and incidents that authorities failed to follow up on in time to prevent the attack:

  • A resident who lived near the apartment where the bombs used on March 22 were made reported “strange comings and goings” from the building to police, but the officer who responded apparently never entered the actual unit where the el-Bakraoui brothers, who are believed to have detonated two of the bombs, were living and preparing for the attack. The Times article seems to indicate that the resident’s tip was made at least three months ago.
  • The building’s landlord noticed strong chemical odors emanating from the apartment but didn’t investigate further.
  • Police in a small town near Brussels received a tip in December 2015 about where Paris fugitive and Belgian national Salah Abdeslam was hiding; the tip turned out to be accurate, but Abdeslam wasn’t actually arrested until March 18 because the local police never passed the tip on to national authorities. It’s not clear whether Abdeslam had knowledge of or involvement in the March 22 attack plans, but he did know at least one of the men—Najim Laachraoui—who carried them out.
  • Belgian officials did not heed a July 2015 warning from the Turkish government that Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, who had been in Syria, was potentially planning to carry out jihadist attacks; Turkey had detained el-Bakraoui, but he was released soon afterward in the Netherlands.

Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign in the days after the attack but their resignations were not accepted.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Brussels terror attacks.