Minister survives stormy debate on Brussels bomber’s stay in the Netherlands
Justice minister Ard van der Steur survived a stormy debate on security policy on Thursday evening, with MPs accusing him of failing to keep tabs on Brussels bomber Ibrahim el-Bakraoui.
Van der Steur was being questioned about what happened after Turkey alerted the Dutch authorities to the fact El-Bakraoui, a Belgian, was being sent back to the Netherlands after he was picked up close to the Syrian border last year.
Then, a week before the Brussels bombs, the Netherlands was alerted to the fact that the two El-Bakraoui brothers had terrorist links and were being looked for by New York police.
The minister said he had failed to ensure that agreements [on exchanging information] had been fully met. Although no errors had been made in the way El-Bakraoui was dealt with, officials should learn to be ‘proactive, assertive and alert’, he told MPs.
In particular, MPs were criticial of the fact no one knew what happened to El-Bakraoui after he arrived in the Netherlands. He was not in the Dutch police register so no further action was taken, the minister said.
D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said: ‘I really don’t understand this… was he picked up, did he get in a taxi, did he withdraw cash from an ATM? This is essential information.’