Friday 18 August 2017

John Kerry: Attacks on Belgian counter-terrorism efforts are 'inappropriate'

John Kerry
John Kerry

US secretary of state John Kerry has defended Belgium's counter-terrorism efforts against "carping" by critics as he made a whistle-stop trip to Brussels.

Mr Kerry said all governments must consistently improve their strategies to fight terrorism, but maintained that Belgium had made significant improvements over the past year despite failing to stop Tuesday's attacks.

He noted that Belgium had actively sought additional assistance and that 10 or 11 FBI agents are now in Brussels helping with the investigation.

Turkey announced this week that it had warned Belgium last year that one of the Brussels attackers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, had been flagged as a "foreign terrorist fighter".

The attacks have laid bare intelligence shortcomings that have prompted European authorities to call for quicker and more efficient cooperation.

"People are jumping to conclusions," Mr Kerry said of critics. "I think they are looking for things that just sometimes are very difficult to analyse in the immediate aftermath of something."

"I don't know what all the circumstances were, I don't know if some events or evidence or opportunities were missed specifically," he told reporters at the residence of the US ambassador to Belgium. "That will come over a period of time, But I think all this carping four days later is a little bit frantic and inappropriate."

Mr Kerry said that prior to the recent attacks, the US and other countries had already scheduled a number of meetings with Belgium about specific improvements they could make to their laws, intelligence collection and attempts to blunt the radicalisation of youth in particular.

He said the reason the Islamic State group "is resorting to actions outside the Middle East is that its fantasy of a caliphate is collapsing before their eyes; its territory is shrinking. Its leaders are decimated. Its revenue sources are dwindling, and its fighters are fleeing".

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel thanked Mr Kerry for his visit, calling it a powerful message of solidarity. "It is very important for us today to receive your support," he said.

Both said the fight against the Islamic State will be relentless.

"We will not be deterred," Mr Kerry said. "We will come back with greater resolve - with greater strength - and we will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of the Earth."

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