Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said his country had feared an impending terrorist strike prior to Tuesday's attacks at Brussels' airport and at a subway station close to the headquarters of the European Union. The attacks come as both Brussels and Paris deal with increasing numbers of anti-terror cases following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.
“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened,” Michel told reporters Tuesday, CNN reported. At least 30 people were killed in the attacks.
Only days after the capture of Paris terrorist suspect Salah Abdeslam, French and Belgian authorities acknowledged Monday joint coordination efforts and also spoke of the numbers of anti-terrorism cases facing their nations.
A day before Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels, Belgian federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw said his country worked on 315 anti-terror cases in 2015 and was already working on 60 in 2016, the Associated Press reported. Van Leeuw called the numbers a “general threat.” Paris prosecutor François Molins said France was working on 244 anti-terror cases involving 772 individuals, some of whom were still being sought after.
Both officials stressed the coordination between police and prosecutors in France and Belgium to capture Abdeslam after a four-month search. However, finger-pointing between politicians in Belgium and France over the long search began Monday.
“How could a country such as Belgium have failed so completely?” asked France’s former anti-terror magistrate Alain Marsaud, Politico Europe reported. “I am waiting for the French government to demand answers. We should ask the Belgians, ‘How could you let all of this happen?'”
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told CNN that 18 months ago his country had approximately 15 people per month leaving for Syria and Iraq to join terror groups, including the Islamic State group. Jambon said that number had now dropped to less than five people a month.
“Five is too much, I am aware of that … If you see that people are still leaving to join ISIS, we didn’t do enough,” Jambon told CNN prior to Tuesday’s attacks, using another name for the terrorist organization.