Ireland being used as 'transit hub for Jihadis' heading for Iraq and Syria
Taoiseach to attend rally in Paris as new details emerge of radicals in our midst
The crackdown on jihadis in the rest of Europe has led them to use Ireland as a transit point to reach Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq.
A small number of Irish-based Muslim extremists have been playing a key role in providing logistical and financial support to international terror groups, especially Islamic State (IS).
The central group, consisting of about 12 radicals, are suspected of harbouring jihadi fighters from Britain and mainland Europe and supplying them with fake documentation, including false passports.
"What you have is small groups of jihadis who cannot travel directly to Turkey, for access to Syria, arriving here, receiving support and money and then transiting through Ireland to the war zones. There is quite an elaborate support network based in Dublin and other major Leinster towns which is attracting the attention of security agencies in the rest of Europe and further afield," a source said.
Police in France remained on high alert last night as they hunted for any accomplices of the gunmen who killed 17 people in two days of terror attacks. Some 500 extra troops are being deployed around Paris.
Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Paris kosher supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, remains on the run.
She was said to be with Coulibaly when a policewoman was killed and is described as "armed and dangerous".
Today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will join European Union leaders in Paris at a unity rally to show support for the French government after the horrific terror attacks.
Last year, the Counter Terrorism International (CTI) unit was established in the Garda Crime and Security section to specifically target the Islamic terror support groups operating here.
The CTI, under Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney, reports directly to Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. The unit reportedly works closely with their counterparts throughout the EU and also with the CIA and National Security Agency, (NSA). The events in Paris last week will cause the Garda and army authorities to re-assess the level of risk here.
Last summer, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told an Oireachtas committee that gardai were aware that about 30 suspected jihadis had travelled from Ireland to take part in various conflicts since the start of the Arab Spring.
Intelligence sources have told the Sunday Independent the estimate has since risen to around 50 Irish citizens.
Separately, foreign intelligence agencies have received reports of young Islamists being secretly trained here for selection as fighters in the Middle East.
Prospective recruits for selection as Islamist fighters have been sent on "training camps" in the remote areas in the Leinster region. One training camp is reported to have taken place in recent weeks.
Those taking part - young men aged between their late teens and early 20s - were being "assessed" for their "mental and physical strength" to be jihadis.
"The young men were made endure the hardships of living rough in mountainous terrain, including swimming in frozen lakes and camping under the elements. No weapons or military tactics were used and no laws were broken," a security source said.
"Those selected are taken aside for more rigorous indoctrination and sent abroad to join IS in Syria."
International security reports suggest that while Irish citizens have joined groups such as al-Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra, most have joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
One of the individuals who features high up in all international terrorism bulletins has been living in south Dublin for over 15 years.
He co-ordinates an intricate financial network on behalf of Islamic State as well as a number of front companies set up to launder money. He receives up to €3,000 a month from the Department of Social Welfare, had links to al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi who was responsible for a series of suicide bombings and beheadings in Iraq before he was killed by US forces.
His main role in the jihadist movement is in procuring elaborate false documentation including passports and visas for various countries.
He is unable to leave Ireland or else he would be arrested abroad.
"He is watched all the time and if he sets foot outside this State he will be lifted immediately," a security source revealed.
"He is a key player in the international structure of the new threat emerging from Islamic fundamentalists," the source added.
The main concerns expressed by security services is that of the estimated 3,000 European jihadi fighters who return from conflict zones "at least 10pc" will engage in further terrorist acts in Europe.
Yesterday, in Nice, Pau and Orleans, France, tens of thousands of people took part in silent marches to remember the victims of the Paris attacks.