Belgium missed 13 chances to unmask Paris attackers
Belgian police missed 13 opportunities to unmask the participants of the deadly Paris November attacks before the events, according to an internal report leaked to a newspaper on Saturday.
The police report in the De Tijd daily shows that as early as February 2015, the force were in possession of phone records linking known terrorist suspects with Salah Abdeslam, allegedly the sole surviving member of the jihadist team that attacked Paris in November 2015.
The information however was not handled, due to lack of investigators, De Tijd cites the report as saying.
Of the 13 missed chances for Belgian police to catch some of the Paris attackers, six were due to staffing shortages, the secret report said.
Also left ignored by police until after the tragedy was a request from Spanish authorities for more information on Salah’s older brother Brahim Abdeslam after he journeyed to Spain in March 2015.
Eight months after that visit, Brahim would blow himself up in a Paris cafe on the night of the massacre.
The Abdeslams, as well as several others involved in the attacks, are from the gritty district of Molenbeek in Brussels.
Salah Abdeslam has also been linked to several jihadists directly involved in the bomb attacks in Brussels on March 22 this year.
Both sets of attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group headquartered in Syria.
Earlier leaks of the report said that Molenbeek police warned higher ups that the Abdeslam brothers had been radicalised with links to Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was already known as an important figure from IS.
But the information was never followed up, the report said.
Many of the details of the report have previously leaked to the media, but De Tijd said it was now completed.
The final report now goes to a special commission at Belgian parliament tasked with improving the country’s response to terrorism.