Brussels suicide bomber should never have been allowed to leave Turkey

Brothers Khalid El Bakraoui (left) and Ibrahim El Bakraoui (right) coordinated suicide attacks at Brussels Airport, and at Maalbeek metro station on 22 March 2016 killing 35 people.

Ibrahim El Bakraoui, identified by Belgian police as one of the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Brussels’ Zaventem Airport on 22 March 2016, causing the death of 17 people and wounding many others, was taken into custody in Gaziantep on 14 June 2015 and released on judicial control and with prohibition to leave Turkey, according to a court document obtained by Kom News.

El Bakraoui was deported from Turkey on 14 July 2015, Turkish authorities announced a day after the airport attack in Brussels. The Turkish President’s Office noted the same day that Turkey warned Dutch and Belgian authorities that El Bakraoui was detained near the Syrian border and deported to the Netherlands on his request. The conditions of El Bakraoui’s deportation had caused a polemic between Belgian, Dutch and Turkish authorities in the aftermath of the attack.

“The terrorist attacks in Brussels last week could have been prevented by having better cooperation from Europe and a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ against terrorism” noted the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, after a week of accusations between the three countries for not sharing or mishandling information related to the terrorist.

El Bakraoui, however, should have never arrived on European soil because he should have been imprisoned and put on trial in Turkey if a court decision prohibiting him to leave the country wasn’t ignored by Turkish authorities.

The Belgian citizen was detained alongside three Turkish citizens and a German national (Samir El Amri) in a park in Gaziantep, eight days after the bombing of a political meeting organized by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakır on 6 June, a day before the general elections.

Mustafa Kilinc and Burhan Gok, with whom El Bakraoui was caught, are both suspects in the Diyarbakır bomb attack trial; they were the ones who rented a safe house to hide Orhan Gonder who planted the two bombs in the meeting area and escorted him to the safe house a day after the bombing. The two suspect were being followed by officers of the Gaziantep Police Intelligence Department and were arrested on 16 June 2015.

The same court that issued the arrest of Kilinc and Gok on the grounds that “the conditions under which they were taken under custody confirms the intelligence reports about them”, also ordered the release of El Bakraoui and El Amri on judicial control, meaning they would have to go the police station near their residency and give their signature every Sunday. The court further decided to prohibit the Belgian and German nationals from leaving the country. Levent Kilinc, brother of Mustafa, who came to the meeting in the park in the same car with El Bakraoui was also released on judicial control.

“We don’t know the exact conditions of this second detention in July but authorities have indicated that he was preparing to cross the border into Syria at the time. If this is true, he should have been arrested because not only is it a breach of judicial control, it is an attempt to leave the country despite the prohibition order” said Kazim Bayraktar, a lawyer representing the victims of the Diyarbakır bomb attack, to Kom News.

“Authorities ignored the 16 June court order about El Bakraoui and deported him. What they have done is absolutely illegal. This deportation seems like a very obvious and conscious move to open the path for someone who is on his way to carry out a terror attack,” Bayraktar said via telephone.

“El Bakraoui was not properly interrogated by the police and we don’t know what kind of intelligence they had about him. El Bakraoui and El Amri gave addresses in Belgium and Germany respectively as their fixed residence but were released on judicial control on the grounds that they have a fixed residence [in Turkey] despite the fact that they were staying in hotels in Gaziantep” added Bayraktar. “They should both have been arrested in June when they were caught in the park where they met Kilinc and Gok.”

Ibrahim El Bakraoui, along with his brother Khalid, were also implicated in the multiple terror attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded more than 400. According to Belgian Police, the brothers provided weapons and ammunition to the terror cell that carried out the Paris attacks and provided safe houses for members of the cell in Belgium.

“There is no reason for the bomb, which exploded in Ankara, not to explode in Brussels … or in any city in Europe” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned, just four days before the multiple attacks in Brussels.