Turkish officials say Europe sought to export 'jihadist problem' to Syria


Turkish officials suggest European countries allowed known suspects to pass through airports with weapons in their luggage

Brothers Ibrahim (L) and Khalid (R) al-Bakroui were on US counter-terror watchlist since last year (AFP)
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Last update: 
Saturday 26 March 2016 12:18 UTC

Turkish officials have accused European governments of attempting to export alleged "jihadists" and suspected terrorists to Syria by turning a blind eye to them leaving Europe.

The allegation follows earlier criticism of European security agencies by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said on Wednesday that one of the bombers involved in last week's Brussels attacks had been detained and deported from Turkey to Belgium last year.

Ibrahim al-Bakroui, one of two men who blew themselves up at Brussels airport on Tuesday, was deported from Turkey to the Netherlands in July 2015 after authorities arrested him on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkish officials told the Guardian newspaper that they had documents proving that people on Interpol watchlists had travelled through European airports with bags containing weapons and ammunition.

“We were suspicious that the reason they want people to come is because they don’t want them in their own countries,” a Turkish security official told the newspaper, which said the conversation had occurred before last week's attacks.

“I think they were so lazy and so unprepared and they kept postponing looking into this until it became chronic.”

In one case cited from June 2014, Turkish security officers interviewed a Norwegian man who told them he had flown to Turkey in order to travel to Syria for "jihad".

When they searched his luggage they found he had been able to fly from Oslo with a suitcase containing a camouflage outfit, a first aid kit, knives, a gun magazine and parts of an AK-47 assault rifle.

Turkey has also faced accusations of exporting extremists to Europe, with Middle East Eye revealing on Friday that Jordan's King Abdullah told US politicians at a high-level meeting in January that “the fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy”.

Amid these traded accusations, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was due to arrive in Jordan on Saturday for talks with King Abdullah and Prime Minister Abdullah al-Mansour on Sunday.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed on Saturday that Ibrahim al-Bakroui had been on a US counterterrorism watchlist since before last November’s devastating attacks in Paris, a US official told CNN.

His brother Khalid, who blew himself up at a central Brussels metro station shortly after the airport blast, had been added to the same list following the Paris attacks.