US Feared Possibility of Brussels Attack But Lacked Intel Warning

Three US government officials acknowledged that the US believed an attack by Islamic State in Brussels was possible.

1 min read
People walk away from the broken windows at Zaventem Airport in Brussels after an explosion on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (Photo: AP)

The United States lacked specific intelligence warning of Tuesday’s attacks in Belgium but strongly believed that such a strike was possible, particularly after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam in Belgium, a US official said. Abdeslam is a key suspect in the Paris attacks.

Thirty-four people were killed in the blasts at Zaventem airport in Brussels and in Maelbeek, a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital, triggering security alerts across Europe and bringing some cross-border traffic to a halt.

The attacks came just four days after the arrest of French citizen Salah Abdeslam who who was captured by Belgian police after a shootout on Friday.

Three US government officials acknowledged that the United States believed an attack by Islamic State in Brussels was possible, if not likely. Still, they were not aware of any US intelligence about where or when the attack would occur.

One of the main US lines of inquiry is that even though the attack may represent retaliation for the arrest of Abdeslam, it was likely already in the works before his arrest.

Under that scenario, the attack date was already on the schedule before his arrest, and possibly advanced somewhat because of his arrest, two of the officials said.

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