ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish authorities in June 2015 detained and later deported one of the Brussels attackers, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday as a media report named him as Ibrahim El Bakraoui.
“One of the Brussels attackers was detained in Gaziantep (in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border) and then deported”, Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.
Erdogan did not identify the individual but NTV television named him as Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the two men who blew themselves up at Brussels airport.
Erdogan said Belgian authorities had failed to confirm the suspect’s links to terrorism “despite our warnings” following his deportation.
He said that Belgian consular authorities were formally notified of his deportation on July 14, 2015. Erdogan added that he was then released by the Belgian authorities.
“Despite our warnings that this person was a foreign terrorist fighter, the Belgian authorities could not identify a link to terrorism,” he said at a news conference alongside visiting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Erdogan said that the Netherlands were also implicated in the issue as the man had initially been deported to the Netherlands at his own request and the Dutch authorities informed.
He did not specify how he had been transferred from the Netherlands to Belgium where 31 people died in bomb attacks on Tuesday.
“I believe that we can work this out (the fight against terror) if world leaders form an alliance against terror. For that, we need to redefine global terror and terrorists,” Erdogan added.
Turkey has previously complained that Western countries did not heed warnings of the dangers posed by jihadists it had expelled back to Europe after arresting them on the Syrian border.
European officials have also urged Turkey to improve intelligence sharing and praised an increase in cooperation in recent months.