Newspaper headlines: Brussels terror attack 'blunders'

In the aftermath of the Brussels terror attacks, the press pick up on apparent mistakes the authorities made in the run-up to the suicide bombings.

The Times says Turkish intelligence officials warned their Belgian counterparts last summer that Brahim el-Bakraoui posed a threat, after he was deported.

The paper also says Belgian authorities failed to track down Bakraoui when he breached prison release conditions and failed to inform the French that Salah Abdeslam was a terror suspect ahead of the Paris attacks.

The Independent calls it a "tragedy of errors", saying security officials were accused of missing a "string of opportunities" to stop the attackers.

The paper says officials apparently failed to register that Bakraoui had re-entered the country after being deported from Turkey as a suspected jihadist last year.

The Guardian says it raises awkward questions for Belgium's intelligence services.

"Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks, which plunged the Belgian capital into a day-long lockdown, led to heightened security at airports across Europe, and drew swift and strong condemnation from other European capitals, the US and Russia," the Guardian reports.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Tributes have been made to the victims

The Telegraph says as a series of serious intelligence blunders in the run-up to the attacks emerged.

The paper notes that all the main US presidential candidates criticised the approach of European intelligence and security agencies towards stopping terrorism.

The Financial Times says Bakraoui and his brother Khalid's suspected links to the Paris attacks underscored investigators' belief that they are battling the most sophisticated and extensive Islamic State cell encountered in Europe.

"Both brothers were known to the police, raising questions about how much the authorities were aware of the cell's operation before the bombings," says the FT.

The Mail describes the way the Turkish warning was dealt with as a "shocking blunder", while the Sun says the brothers were dubbed "the worst bandits in Brussels" for their criminal activities.

The Express reports how Brahim el-Bakraoui left a message suggesting he was ready to die because he did not want go to prison.

The New Day says the hunt was continuing for the "man in white" who was caught on CCTV wheeling a suitcase with two of the suicide bombers.


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'Picture is chilling'

The Times pictures the faces of some of the Brussels missing and confirmed dead, plus the impromptu shrine that has sprung up in the Belgian capital.

The paper says an action plan to tackle radicalisation in Belgian prisons came too late to deal with the extremists who recruited the Bakraoui brothers.

It now seems unarguable, the Times adds, that the arrest of Salah Abdeslam was the trigger for the bombings.

Writing in the Times, Maajid Nawaz, founding chairman of the Quilliam think tank, says there is little room for doubt that Europe is now in the midst of something akin to a jihadist guerrilla war.

The Telegraph says it has learned that security scanners could be installed at airport entrances to foil terrorist attacks in the wake of the bombings.

The paper reports that the bombers had evaded police monitoring in the weeks before the attacks by hopping between rented properties across the city.

Image copyright Belgian Federal Police
Image caption Three men involved in the airport attack caught on CCTV

Security expert Colonel Tim Collins writes in the Telegraph that the Belgian authorities do not have the tools to do the job.

"Yes, they have men with guns, they have helicopters and armoured vehicles - but who knows where to send them and when?" he argues.

"To do that you need a police Special Branch, as we used to have in Britain."

The Guardian says analysts have long been conscious of involvement in crime and importance of family ties in present-day Islamist militancy.

In the Guardian, Nicolas Henin, former hostage and author of a book on the Islamic State group, says CCTV footage before the airport attack is as worrying as any violent image.

He writes: "The terrorists are casually dressed, one almost drawing attention to himself in a white jacket and a dark beach hat, worn at an angle.

"But to study this picture is chilling, knowing the three are intending to kill and maim dozens of people - and themselves - and yet they are not stressed or anxious.

"That is because, for them, this is all about death. But the picture sends a message: that the enemy looks ordinary and walks among you.

"It is one of the goals of Isis to sow division and make us afraid of one another. That was one of the things I learned during my captivity."

The Independent's travel correspondent Simon Calder says restoring normal travel links with Brussels will be a slow and difficult process.


'Vanguard of military offensive'

In a leading article, the Times says Islamic State is taking its "bloody campaign" against the West to new a level.

"The Isis terror cells in Europe and north Africa increasingly resemble the vanguard of a military offensive," it says.

"They are building up caches of weapons and their communication is encrypted. Bombs and suicide vests are being made in European back rooms.

"The number of foreign jihadists signing up with Isis amounts to a general mobilisation."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The London Eye was lit up in the colours of the Belgian flag

For the Telegraph, it is right to ask whether the attacks could have been prevented and to think hard about what lessons might be learned.

"This is not about apportioning blame, which lies with those who carry out such barbaric acts," it says. "Rather, it is about ensuring that the police and security agencies can stop similar attacks again.

"Otherwise, the 34 victims of the bombings will not be the last to die in European cities at the hands of Islamist terrorists."

The Guardian believes it is dangerous and wrong to claim Britain would safer out of the EU.

It comments: "Membership of the EU cannot possibly guarantee the protection of Britain against a terrorist attack, least of all a homegrown one.

"But solidarity and cooperation is the best defence against a terrorist movement that is determined to destroy the stability and values of Britain and Europe alike."


Cat's nine lives

On a lighter note, the Times reports that Jaguar plans to revive the original supercar, the XKSS, by building nine to the original specifications and sell them for £1m each.

The XKSS was the road-going version of the D-type racing car that won Le Mans three times in a row in the 1950s.

Twenty-five were originally manufactured but nine were destroyed by a fire at Jaguar's Browns Lane factory in 1957.

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Media captionDaily Mirror political editor Jason Beattie and journalist and broadcaster Mina Al-Oraibi join the BBC News Channel to review Thursday's front pages.

Actor Steve McQueen was famously seen behind the wheel of one which is now in a US museum and worth more than £15m.

Jaguar's Tim Hannig tells the Times: "The XKSS occupies a unique place in Jaguar's history and is a car coveted by collectors the world over for its exclusivity and unmistakable design."

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