Brussels bomber ‘had cleaning job in European parliament’


Undetected ... Brussels bomber Najim Laachraoui, reportedly held a job cleaning in the European parliament for one month in 2009 and one month in 2010. Picture: AFP
AFP, ReutersAFP


ONE of two Islamic State jihadists who blew themselves up at Brussels airport on March 22 briefly worked as a cleaner at the European Parliament several years ago, the EU body said overnight.
“He held a summer holiday job cleaning at the Parliament for one month in 2009 and one month in 2010. Those were the only instances he worked at the Parliament,” it said in a statement.
It did not name the individual, but a source close to the inquiry told AFP it was Najim Laachraoui.
Suspects ... Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew themselves up at Brussels airport. The ‘man in white’ is still at large. Picture: Belgian Federal Police via AP
Suspects ... Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew themselves up at Brussels airport. The ‘man in white’ is still at large. Picture: Belgian Federal Police via APSource:AP
It comes as Belgium’s prime minister hit back at criticism over the country’s national security measures.
Laachraoui and fellow suicide bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui blew themselves up at Brussels airport in co-ordinated attacks two weeks ago that also struck a Brussels train station and killed a total of 32 people.
Laachraoui is also suspected of being the bombmaker for the Paris terror assaults last November after his DNA was found on some the explosives used in the attacks, which killed 130.
The European Parliament said the suspect did not have a criminal record when he worked for the cleaning firm it had contracted at the time.
“As required by the contract, the cleaning firm submitted proof of the absence of a criminal record to the European Parliament,” the statement said.
Belgium’s prime minister has acknowledged failures in security over the attacks, but forcefully rejected foreign criticism.
Fielding questions from international media overnight, Charles Michel dismissed suggestions that Belgium was a “failed state” or that it should reverse the political decentralisation that some say let the militants, also blamed for attacks in Paris in November, evade detection due to poor police co-ordination.
Paris suspect ... Salah Abdeslam was caught close to his family home in Brussels. Picture:AFP/Federal Police of Belgium/STR
Paris suspect ... Salah Abdeslam was caught close to his family home in Brussels. Picture:AFP/Federal Police of Belgium/STRSource:AFP
Terror ... Ibrahim El Bakraoui was one of the suicide bombers responsible for the Paris attacks. Picture: Haberturk newspaper via AP
Terror ... Ibrahim El Bakraoui was one of the suicide bombers responsible for the Paris attacks. Picture: Haberturk newspaper via APSource:AP
In a swipe at criticism from France, the United States and others, Michel said the failure to find the prime surviving suspect in the Paris attacks for four months before he was caught close to his family home in Brussels was far from the embarrassment some have suggested.
“Some people said it was scandalous to take a few months to arrest Salah Abdeslam.
“For Bin Laden, sought by all police throughout the world, it was 10 years after September 11 and 3000 deaths in New York,” Michel said, in reference to the al Qaeda leader killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.
Under fire ... Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has defended the country’s national security measures. Picture: AFP/John Thys
Under fire ... Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has defended the country’s national security measures. Picture: AFP/John ThysSource:AFP
In a remark clearly aimed at French criticism since the Paris attacks over Belgian security, he mentioned a case in which it took French police four years to find the killer on Corsica of the chief state representative on the island.
He said Belgium convicted more than 100 people on terrorism charges last year and foiled major attacks.
Saying that no government could guarantee total security, Michel made repeated references to Islamist militants succeeding in carrying out attacks in France, the United States, Britain, Spain and elsewhere and said Belgium had been a pioneer in pushing for greater international co-ordination of intelligence — something many larger states have been hesitant about.
Healing ... The people of Brussels are still reeling from the attack which left 32 dead. Picture: AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Healing ... The people of Brussels are still reeling from the attack which left 32 dead. Picture: AP Photo/Alastair GrantSource:AP
“It is possible to do more in Belgium and everywhere in the world, but I cannot accept that there is a failed state,” he said. “At the European table, we are systematically the most determined to advance a strategy of increased co-operation.” It was “totally false”, he said, to describe Belgium as the weakest link in European security.

The attacks in Brussels were evidence by definition, he said, of “failure”, but he noted his government’s plans to spend more on security and change laws to enhance the authorities’ capabilities.

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