Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne resigned Friday, four days after a Tunisian migrant killed two Swedish football fans in Brussels, saying the failure to extradite him was a “monumental mistake”.
He told a news conference that Tunisia had on August 15 last year sought the extradition of Abdesalem Lassoued and it had not been followed up.
“It’s an individual, monumental and unacceptable error with dramatic consequences,” he said. “The magistrate in question did not follow up this demand and the dossier was not handled”.
“I am not looking for any excuses. I think it’s my duty” to resign, he said.
The shootings just before the start of a Belgium-Sweden international football match had renewed debate in Belgium over judicial and administrative errors in following up on radicalised persons, although Lassoued was not on the authorities’ radar.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he had taken note of the minister’s decision, adding he had “Respect for his political courage”.
“This new information coming from the prosecutors hits me deeply as I have done everything possible to improve the judicial system”.
The 45-year-old attacker was fatally shot in a police operation on Tuesday.
Official documents showed Lassoued had lodged asylum applications in Norway, Sweden, Italy and Belgium. He had stayed in Belgium illegally after his bid for asylum was rejected in 2020.
French authorities meanwhile have arrested a suspect over the Brussels shootings, a source close to the case said Friday.
A man was arrested Thursday in the western French city of Nantes, the source said.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was “in the context of operations called for by the Islamic State to target nationals of coalition countries”.
The attacker had served a prison sentence in Sweden during the period 2012-2014, Swedish officials revealed Tuesday.
In a social media post after the killings, the gunman had boasted of being inspired by the IS group.
The Swedish foreign ministry said the victims were a man in his 70s from the Stockholm region and a man in his 60s living abroad. The injured Swede was a man in his 70s currently in hospital.
It advised Swedes abroad “to observe increased caution and heightened vigilance.”
Sweden is among dozens of nations in the Global Coalition against IS, formed in 2014 after the militants seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria.