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Brussels attackers were on US radar

dpadpa 30/03/2016

Dutch authorities have confirmed New York police flagged two of the Brussels bombers with police in the Netherlands a week before the blasts.

New York police briefed the Netherlands on the radical background of two of the Brussels suicide bombers a week before the blasts, which killed more than 30 people in the Belgian capital.

The New York police security unit reported on March 16 on "the criminal background of Ibrahim El Bakraoui and the radical and terrorist past of his brother Khalid El Bakraoui", Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur wrote in a letter to the Dutch parliament on Wednesday.

The Netherlands had also been informed of the fact "that the two brothers were wanted by the Belgian authorities", the minister added.

The details were mentioned the following day, on March 17, in talks between the Dutch and Belgian police services, he said.

Belgian police have denied the claims.

Van der Steur conceded having erroneously claimed earlier that the information came from the US intelligence service FBI.

The minister was unable to say why the Netherlands had received information on two Belgian citizens by the New York police.

The El Bakraoui brothers both blew themselves up on March 22, one at Brussels' international airport and the other at the Maelbeek subway station. Another suicide bomber also blew himself up at the airport, while a third airport suspect is on the run.

Belgian media reported on Wednesday that a computer recovered by police from a rubbish bin following the attacks contained plans and photos of the home and office of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. The same computer had contained a will prepared by Ibrahim El Bakraoui.

Meanwhile, it remained unclear when Brussels airport would reopen.

Work has been underway to set up temporary check-in areas after the departure hall was badly damaged by the explosions.

Airport officials were analysing the results on Wednesday of security tests and passenger simulations carried out the previous day.

"We will do our very best to be operational as soon as possible," airport staff said on Twitter, noting that there are no flights "until further notice." On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee approved draft laws under which police raids can be conducted around the clock and different agencies involved in anti-terrorism activities can share information in common databases.

Belgium, which has a highly fragmented state apparatus divided by language and region, has been criticised for communication failures that may have hampered the crackdown on terrorist activities.

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