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Britain was not told about terror fears surrounding one of the Brussels bombers, it emerged last night, sparking concern that Europe's intelligence sharing is leaving the UK exposed to terrorists. Belgium was warned that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was a suspected...

Britain not told about terror fears surrounding Brussels bomber

Britain was not told about terror fears surrounding one of the Brussels bombers, it emerged last night, sparking concern that Europe's intelligence sharing is leaving the UK exposed to terrorists. Belgium was warned that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was a suspected...

Britain not told about terror fears surrounding Brussels bomber

Britain was not told about terror fears surrounding one of the Brussels bombers, it emerged last night, sparking concern that Europe's intelligence sharing is leaving the UK exposed to terrorists.

Belgium was warned that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was a suspected Isil fighter last summer but failed to register the concerns on any EU terror watch list.

It meant that the jihadi, who killed 14 in an airport suicide bomb, was free to travel across Europe. It is already known that two members of his cell entered Britain.

.tg-pullquote__global__group { zoom: 1; } .tg-pullquote__global__group:before, .tg-pullquote__global__group:after { content: ""; display: table; } .tg-pullquote__global__group:after { clear: both; } .tg-pullquote__inline { float: left; } .tmg-particle.pull-quote{ margin: 0 20px 10px 0px; width: 260px; float: left; } @media (max-width: 495px) { .tmg-particle.pull-quote{ float: none; margin-left: 4.687%; margin-right: 4.687%; width: 90.626%; } } .tg-pullquote_container{ font-size: 18px; line-height: 23px; font-family: georgia; } .tg-pullquote__title { font-family: arial; font-weight: bold; font-size: 16px; border-top: 1px dotted #000000; } .tg-pullquote__quote { color: #007A8F; font-style: italic; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; } .tg-pullquote__attribution { color: #787878; margin-bottom: 5px; } .tg-pullquote__source {}.tg-pullquote__source__link { color: #234B7B; outline: 0; text-decoration: none; } .tg-pullquote__source__link:hover { border-bottom: 1px dotted #122842; color: #122842; } “The constraints being placed on our defence and security services, so we don't have the freedom of operation that we need, we can't form the alliances, we can't share the intelligence we need to keep us safe. All of those things are stifling us and they are undermining our freedom” Defence minister Penny Mordaunt

The revelations have intensified scrutiny on the reliability of the EU's intelligence sharing systems and border security, thrusting them to the forefront of the Brexit debate.

Last night the defence minister Penny Mordaunt said that Britain would be safer outside of the EU because membership stops the UK being able to form alliances and “share the intelligence we need to keep us safe”.

US officials also criticised Europe's level of intelligence sharing, echoing concerns raised by the former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove.

Defence minister Penny Mordaunt (Paul Grover for The Telegraph)

In a speech on Wednesday, Miss Mordaunt, who wants Britain to leave the European Union, said: “It's not just our freedom, but our ability also to defend it [which is at stake]… The forced harmonisation that is going on in Europe at the moment, creating such immense austerity, and meaning that people can't have the prosperity that they need to thrive to reach their full ambitions.

“The constraints being placed on our defence and security services, so we don't have the freedom of operation that we need, we can't form the alliances, we can't share the intelligence we need to keep us safe. All of those things are stifling us and they are undermining our freedom.”

Her comments came as it emerged the Belgians were warned by the Turkish authorities twice that Ibrahim El Bakroui was a suspected jihadi.

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The Turks deported him on two separate occasions last summer but the concerns were not reported to the rest of Europe.

He was initially deported to Holland but the Belgians failed to act and Dutch justice minister Ard van der Steur confirmed he was not placed on any international watchlist.

Two Belgian ministers have offered to resign over the errors, but their resignations were rejected by the Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens offered to resign over the errors but Prime Minister Charles Michel asked them to stay on.

It can also be revealed that a major EU anti-terrorism watchlist used by the UK Border Force contains major flaws as guards cannot identify a suspect operating under an alias by their finger prints.

It came as Baroness Neville-Jones, the former security minister and former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, says that Britain should remain in the EU to allow the Prime Minister and other senior figures “to be in the room where decisions affecting UK security are made in future”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she said: “It is notable that despite the huge advantage the UK possesses in its ‘5 Eyes’ intelligence relationship with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, our Agencies attach a high importance to increased cooperation with European counterparts. Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of SIS, takes a different view – but is presumably unaware of the huge strides made in this respect since he left office in 2004.”

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In the US, a number of security officials warned that cooperation was hampered by patchy intelligence–sharing by Brussels and others and there are fears Belgium’s spies have been overwhelmed by the number of jihadists within its borders.

One even suggested the difference was “cultural” and Europe’s deeper commitment to personal privacy sometimes prevented or delayed information sharing.

"They're way behind the ball and they're paying a terrible price," Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat in the House of Representative’s Intelligence Committee, said of Belgium.

In other concerns, the Schengen Information System, which contains details of several thousands jihidists, including fingerprints is used by guards who check passports on people arriving in the UK.

At the moment, guards can only search by a suspects’ name and date of birth, making it hard to work out the true identity of someone travelling under an alias.

A report sent by the Secretary General of the European Commission on March 3 warns that without this technology, terrorists operating under false name could slip through.

Last night interior ministers called for the introduction of fingerprint searches to be “accelerated” as part of a ten-point plan of action in response to the attack.

The said countries must update common terror watchlists “as a matter of urgency”, and called on internet companies to grant access to “digital evidence”.

Amid fears Belgium's counter-terrorism forces is at breaking point, one security expert warned there were just 1,200 intelligence agents to monitor 900 "people of interest", including at least 120 returning jihadists.

Dr Christina Schori Liang, an anti-terrorism advisor, said: "The Belgium security forces are overstretched, underfunded and overwhelmed."

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