BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian Justice Minister Vincent van Quickenborne said on Friday he has decided to step down, following pressure over how Belgium had handled the case of a Tunisian gunman who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State and killed two people in Brussels this week.
Van Quickenborne said an investigation into the 45-year-old Tunisian man, who shot dead two Swedish soccer fans in Brussels on Monday night, revealed that a request by Tunisia to extradite him from Belgium in August 2022 had been neglected by Belgian justice authorities.
"This is an inexcusable error which has had dramatic effects," Van Quickenborne told reporters. "I want to take full political responsibility for this," he added, as he announced his resignation.
In a video on social media, the gunman called himself Abdesalem Al Guilani and claimed responsibility for the attack.
He had unsuccessfully sought asylum in Belgium in 2019 and was living in Belgium illegally. He was known to Belgian police in connection with helping smuggle people into Britain, Van Quickenborne said earlier this week.
The gunman targeted Swedes who were in Brussels to watch Belgium play Sweden in a European championship qualifying match. The game was abandoned on Monday due to the shooting.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called the shooting a "brutal terrorist attack."
It came at a time of heightened security concerns due to the war between Israel and Hamas, but Belgian prosecutors said the gunman appeared motivated more by Koran burnings in Sweden.
In August, Sweden raised its terrorism alert to the second-highest level after Koran burnings outraged Muslims and triggered threats from jihadists.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Phil Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler)