April 15, 2016 / 9:36 AM / 4 years ago

Belgian transport minister quits over airport security

The logo of the Brussels Airport is pictured on a building as air traffic controllers go on strike in Zaventem, Belgium, April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s transport minister resigned on Friday following opposition accusations she lied about an EU report that criticised security at Brussels Airport a year before last month’s Islamic State suicide bombings.

Jacqueline Galant had previously maintained before parliament that her office had not been aware of a critical report sent in March 2015 by EU officials. Opposition parties said they had emails proving the contrary.

European Commission officials declined comment on the report but noted they carry out regular checks on security at European airports and raise any concerns with national authorities.

“A summary of the report had been discussed and sent to the minister’s cabinet in June 2015,” Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference after accepting Galant’s resignation.

“I cannot accept that parliament was not made aware of this important point yesterday,” Michel added.

He would appoint a replacement as soon as possible, he said. Galant is a member of Michel’s centrist party, which rules in coalition with three others.

Galant complained of a “crusade” against her by a senior official in the state transport administration.

On March 22, two Islamic State suicide bombers detonated suitcase bombs in the airport departure hall before a third struck a metro train in the city. In all, they killed 32 people.

Following the attacks and in the face of criticism of the Belgian government at home and abroad, the interior and justice ministers offered their resignations to Michel over failures by police to detain one of the bombers, who had been on wanted lists, but the premier asked them to stay on.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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