Police watchdog finds 'weaknesses' in Belgium's handling of intelligence on Paris attackers

Police searching for suspected Muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in Molenbeek, Belgium, on Nov 16, 2015.
Police searching for suspected Muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in Molenbeek, Belgium, on Nov 16, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgium's police watchdog has identified several "deficiencies and weaknesses" in the way the country's authorities handled information on the Paris attackers before they unleashed carnage on the French capital, public broadcaster RTBF reported on Monday (March 7).

Some of the Paris attackers and alleged accomplices came from the troubled Brussels' neighbourhood of Molenbeek, and Belgium has rejected French criticism of alleged failings by its intelligence services before the attacks in which 130 people died.

RTBF cited as one "glaring example" of intelligence failings the fact that "even before the Paris attacks, a nom de guerre used by one of the terrorists featured in several (police) databases in Belgium, but not in the central database".

The broadcaster said it had seen an interim report by police oversight body Committee P that was presented to 14 lawmakers at a closed-door meeting of a parliamentary committee on Monday.

The most serious deficiencies by Belgian authorities were "technological", RTBF said, adding that Belgium's different police branches did not always correctly share information.

Committee P also highlighted budget problems that meant "certain IT problems were not resolved" and criticised a lack of "qualified personnel".

The committee's final report is due in mid-April.

It is expected to cover allegations published last week by the Belgian press that police had received tip-offs as early as July 2014 that brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam - two of the Paris attackers - had been radicalised and were planning an attack.