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Saturday 10 December 2016

PM Charles Michel rejects notion Belgium is Europe's weak security link

Published 06/04/2016 | 16:21

Charles Michel said life is returning to normal in Brussels two weeks after attacks that killed 32 victims in the subway and airport (AP)
Charles Michel said life is returning to normal in Brussels two weeks after attacks that killed 32 victims in the subway and airport (AP)

Belgium's prime minister has acknowledged that the country made mistakes in combating violent extremism but rejected the notion that it has become Europe's weakest link in efforts to eradicate the threat.

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"In the fight against terrorism, in all countries in the world and in Europe, there have been successes and there have been failures," Prime Minister Charles Michel said.

Belgium has succeeded in preventing many attacks, he said, and in 2015 alone successfully prosecuted scores of people on terrorism-related charges.

"If we were weak, then we would not have been able to convict 100 persons," he said.

Mr Michel appeared before a group of journalists to deliver what he called the "key message" following the widespread disruption caused by the March 22 suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and in the capital's subway.

"Today we return to normal life in Brussels and Belgium," he said.

Thirty-two people died in the attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State group. Three bombers were also killed.

The bombings, and missed signals in Belgium's investigations of many of those responsible for the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130, laid bare numerous failings by Belgian law enforcement and security services.

Mr Michel said Belgian officials have been drawing the proper lessons, and that the priority will be improved information-sharing so suspects already known to authorities do not have the chance to mount attacks.

Belgium must show the world "it can improve what was a failure and has learned its lesson", Mr Michel said.

Belgian investigators took more than four months to find and arrest key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.

"Some said you need so many months, it is too many," Mr Michel said. But he noted it took nearly 10 years for the US to track down and kill Osama bin Laden following the September 11 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, DC that killed nearly 3,000.

Press Association

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