Last updated: 11:34 AM ET, Fri April 01 2016

Police: ISIS Sympathizers Might Still Work at Brussels Airport

Impacting Travel | Josh Lew | April 01, 2016

Police: ISIS Sympathizers Might Still Work at Brussels Airport

PHOTO: Brussels Airport will begin welcoming passengers this weekend despite warnings from airport security officers that ISIS sympathizers may work at the airport. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

Brussels Airport is slated to reopen to a limited number of passengers this weekend, however, some serious questions about security still remain. It has come to light that police had been warning about lax security in the airport's departure area well before the March 22 bombings.

Furthermore, airport police complained that some airport employees had criminal backgrounds, while others could be ISIS sympathizers. Though many of these people were eventually fired, as many as 50 could still be on the payroll. 

Officials at Brussels Zaventem Airport have said that it may take months before the airport is operating at full capacity again. The Belgian hub has been closed since the suicide bombings that took place in the departure hall on March 22.

Ready to reopen

Things certainly won't be back to normal for a long time, but flights could resume again very soon. The airport released a statement saying that it has received permission from the relevant authorities to reopen as soon as today. "Brussels Airport Company has received the go-ahead from the fire services and the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority for a partial restart of passenger flights at the airport.”

In the same statement, however, the airport also mentioned that its previous comments about not operating at full capacity are still true. "The airport is… technically ready for a restart of passenger flights in the temporary infrastructure foreseen for check-in. However, the authorities have yet to take a formal decision on the restart date. Until Friday evening no passenger flights will take place at Brussels Airport."

At least one of the suicide bombers used to work at the airport

Even as the airport prepares to reopen, questions remain regarding staff members with potential ties to ISIS.

The biggest bombshell, however, came from an uncle of the el-Bakraoui brothers, one of whom was a suicide bomber at the airport (the other blew himself up at a Brussels metro station). The uncle claims that the pair actually worked in the airport before.

He told the Daily Mail that the brothers “ worked cleaning at the airport and in a restaurant. They didn't finish high school in the end. They cleaned the airport in the summer months.”  

Sympathizers could still work at the airport

The biggest worry now is that the police claim is valid, and terrorist sympathizers will still be working in the airport when it reopens this weekend. All these employees could have access to secure areas of the terminal, and the baggage handlers would even have direct access to the planes.

Police are demanding that the airport look into this issue before they return to work. In addition to reviewing who has access to secure areas of the airport, police are also concerned about a lack of security personnel and the fact that there is no 100-meter buffer zone between vehicles and the departure area.

READ MORE: Did Brussels Attack Target American Tourists?

Police complained about lax security only four days before the bombing

These are not new demands. Police were asking that security issues be addressed even before the attacks. On March 18, four days before the suicide bombing at the airport, the police union threatened to strike if security was not improved at the airport.

It is safe to say that some people in law enforcement saw that there was a serious danger at Brussels Airport, but no one with the authority to do anything about it listened to them.

Changes will probably be made now, especially since the media has a hold of the story. However, it would be fair to characterize whatever improvements are made as being too little too late.

While the main airport in Brussels remains closed, some carriers, including Ryanair, are flying out of Brussels Charleroi. Security is apparently extremely tight there. The Irish low-cost carrier is telling fliers who are booked on flights from Charleroi to arrive at least three hours before departure so that they have time to go through all the additional security checks that are currently set up.

With the carriers themselves exhibiting caution over lax security following the bombings, there could be major changes when the airport reopens. Other major European hubs could also take a look in the mirror and evaluate their current security situation.


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