Wednesday 7 December 2016

Paris ringleader posed as a migrant to get into Europe

Clampdown on borders as every single refugee will be checked against a terrorist watchlist

Matthew Holehouse in Brussels and Henry Samuel in Paris

Published 20/11/2015 | 02:30

Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Investigating police officers are pictured outside Saint Denis
People work inside the damaged building of Wednesday's raid on an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis

The ringleader of the Paris attacks was able to slip into Europe among Syrian migrants, it emerged last night, as police on the continent admitted they are unable to monitor thousands of suspected jihadists.

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EU interior ministers will today move to tighten the continent's borders to ensure that every single migrant is checked against a terror watchlist, after French authorities revealed that Abdelhamid Abaaoud was able to return from Syria via the migrant route through Greece.

As it was confirmed that Abaaoud, the head plotter of the Paris attacks, was killed during Wednesday's police raid on a flat in Saint-Denis, Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, disclosed that he had travelled through Greece, disappearing among the 300,000-plus refugees and migrants that have made the same journey this year.

At least two of the Isil jihadists who killed 129 in Paris - and a man now on the run - had also posed as migrants or refugees to return from trips to Syria, though as many as six of the seven suicide bombers are thought to have visited the war-torn country.

At a summit in Brussels, EU interior ministers are also expected to bow to French demands to screen every single EU passport holder entering the continent for the first time to catch fighters returning from the Middle East.

Europol, the organisation that polices Europe's external border, yesterday admitted that only 2,000 of the estimated 5,000 extremists who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad have been logged on an EU-wide intelligence sharing database used by Britain to disrupt plots.

It means Britain has no way of checking the background of 3,000 suspected terrorists, even if their own country has identified them as a threat.

One French official said the EU's borders were "like a sieve".

Mr Cazeneuve said French intelligence was unaware Abaaoud was in the country until after the massacre, and said other states had provided no intelligence on his whereabouts. He demanded that Europe "pull itself together".

A senior member of the DGSE, France's equivalent of MI6, said: "It has to be said: Schengen is a sieve. A guy with a CV and history like this, wherever he turned up in Schengen, he should have sparked a red flag."

Security

Europe's interior ministers are expected to agree to a security crackdown on the external borders of the Schengen zone at a summit in Brussels today.

Under emergency EU plans every traveller into the Schengen zone will have their details checked against the Schengen Information System (SIS) watchlist - a database accessed by all EU countries - to monitor extremists and other criminals.

At present, only non-EU passport holders are meant to have SIS checks. EU passport holders only undergo a cursory visual passport inspection, to respect their "freedom of movement".

As part of the crackdown, every single refugee entering Europe will also be subject to a full SIS check for the first time, according to a leaked text of the draft conclusions.

Officers from Europol will be deployed to landing grounds in Greece and Italy to screen out potential terrorists.

Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol and a former intelligence officer in MI5, yesterday admitted weaknesses in the Focal Point Travellers system, the EU-wide database for sharing details of known jihadists between intelligence agencies in order to disrupt plots.

"We are only confident we have 2,000 names in the system, even though the general assessment across Europe is there are at least 5,000 European nationals who have travelled to Syria and Iraq," he told a committee of MEPs.

In the latest sign that the Schengen-free travel zone is on the brink of collapse, the Netherlands yesterday proposed the creation of a mini-Schengen, comprising itself and Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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