BRUSSELS – Belgian police were called to the address used as a hideout for jihadists in Brussels a month before they took part in attacks that claimed 31 lives, the woman who phoned police that day told The Associated Press.
Although police were merely investigating fallen glass and it's unclear whether anyone was living in the apartment at the time, news that law enforcement visited a key staging post for a triple suicide bombing only weeks before it took place may add to concern over the effectiveness of the country's security forces.
Fathia Berajaa, a 41-year-old who works near the hideout, told the AP she called police on the afternoon of Feb. 8 after a pane of glass came loose from the top story window frame of the apartment building at No. 4 Max Roos Street and fell onto her Renault sedan parked below. She showed the AP her damaged car and a smartphone photo of a police officer filling out a report. The AP was independently shown a signed copy of the same document.
It's on the top floor of No. 4, in the northeast Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek, that police on Tuesday discovered an apparent bomb-making factory, including 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of homemade explosives and nails for use as shrapnel.
Berajaa said she called police because she wanted to discuss compensation with whoever was responsible for renovating the structure. She said two officers came and climbed to the top floor.
"They went and checked it out," Berajaa said. "They said they didn't want to come every time something like this happened."
It's uncertain how close police came to stumbling upon the plotters. It's possible the attackers, whose whereabouts during that period are unknown, had not yet arrived in the apartment.
Belgian police would not comment on the matter and prosecutors did not respond to calls.