No more ‘normal’ in Brussels

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s justice minister pleaded Tuesday for critics of Belgium’s intelligence failures to focus on the hunt for those behind last week’s Brussels attacks and November’s massacre in Paris.

Investigators say they are still looking for at least one suspect in the attacks seven days ago, when suicide bombers killed 32 people at Brussels’ airport and in a subway station near the European Union headquarters. Three suicide bombers also blew themselves up.

The Health Ministry and victims identification officials said 90 people remain in hospital, a third of them suffering from severe burns. In a joint press conference they said the 32 dead include 17 Belgians and 15 foreigners, while 44 of the wounded are foreigners from 20 nations.

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Belgium has faced rising international criticism over its evident inability to identify and monitor Islamic State activists living in the Belgian capital who have been deemed responsible both for the March 22 bombings in Brussels and the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris nightspots that left 130 dead. Several of those who killed themselves during the attacks or were subsequently arrested were Belgian nationals of North African background.

“Now is not the time to fight one another. As far as I know, the enemy is in Syria,” Justice Minister Koen Geens said, referring to the primary power base of the Islamic State extremist group that claimed responsibility for both attacks.

But authorities in Belgium and the neighboring Netherlands faced fresh questions Tuesday about how much they knew in advance of the March 22 bombings.