Attack in Brussels, killer had escaped from a Tunisian prison

The man who killed two Swedish fans in Brussels in the October 16 terrorist attack had escaped from a Tunisian prison where he was serving a long sentence, an episode that prompted Tunisian officials to ask for his extradition from Belgium.

“Monumental mistake”

The Belgian authorities had received the extradition request in August 2022, but it was not processed. That’s why Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne resigned on Friday for what he called a “monumental mistake.” Today the capital’s chief prosecutor, Tim De Wolf, explained to the press that “the serious shortage of staff at the Brussels prosecutor’s office played a role, but this does not justify it”, adding that the extradition dossier had been received in September of last year and had probably been forgotten in a filing cabinet. “None of the colleagues involved remember what happened to this specific dossier a year ago. There is no trace that it was dealt with,” De Wolf said.

The lost file

The attacker, Abdesalem Lassoued, 45, had been sentenced “to more than 26 years in prison in Tunisia in 2005, but escaped from prison in January 2011,” the prosecutor said. Tunisian authorities “reported” the case on July 1, 2022 via Interpol, De Wolf said. At the time the document only mentioned “an escape from prison”, the prosecutor added, specifying that six weeks later a “series of attachments” followed, but the file was lost at the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor did not explain why the Tunisian had been jailed, but Belgian media reported that he had committed several murders.