March 25, 2016 / 4:10 PM / 4 years ago

Turkey's Erdogan says Belgium should account for intelligence failures

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused the Belgian authorities on Friday of being soft on militant groups and said they should account for intelligence failures in the run-up to Islamic State suicide bombings in Brussels.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media during a news conference with Romania's President Klaus Iohannis (not seen) in Ankara, Turkey, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace Press Office/Handout via Reuters

Erdogan, still smarting from the presence of pro-Kurdish militant protesters near an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels this month, said European authorities had shown themselves “incapable” after Turkey deported one of the Brussels attackers last July but he was subsequently released.

Erdogan has repeatedly equated the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast, with Islamic State, saying both are terrorist organisations and accusing Europe of failing to adequately condemn the PKK.

“They (the Belgians) are allowing members of the separatist terrorist organisation to set up tents right next to the European Council, they allow pictures of terrorists to be displayed, they let their flags fly there,” Erdogan said.

“So, what happened? What happened, just two days later?,” he went on, before condemning European authorities for releasing Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of two brothers named by Belgium as responsible for Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, following his deportation from Turkey.

“Such incapable governments ... We detained this guy in Gaziantep, we deported him, sent him back. Those gentlemen didn’t do what was necessary and released the terrorist,” Erdogan said in a speech in the central Turkish town of Sorgun.

“My brothers, terrorism is not the problem of a single country, it’s the whole world’s problem. God willing they’ll understand that,” he said.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that Belgium had ignored a warning that Bakraoui was a militant.

But Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands, which said it did not realise he was a dangerous suspect as Turkey had failed to follow normal procedures when expelling him.

Dutch authorities on Thursday released a copy of a note from the Turkish foreign ministry, dated July 14, 2015, informing them of Bakraoui’s deportation and flight details, but making no mention of the reasons for his expulsion or of his suspected links to militants.

Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign on Thursday over the failure to track Bakraoui, but Prime Minister Charles Michel asked them to stay on.

Bakraoui blew himself up at Brussels airport on Tuesday.

Turkey has itself faced criticism for failing to do more to stop the flow of foreign fighters, estimated to be in their thousands, who have crossed its territory to join the ranks of Islamic State in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Gareth Jones

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