Paris attacks: Some jihadists 'took advantage of refugee crisis to slip into Europe', French Prime Minister says

The UNHCR said a Syrian passport was 'left to be seen' by a suicide bomber as part of an Isis plot to sow discord in Europe

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 20 November 2015 08:24 GMT
Abdelhamid Abaaoud boasted of his ability to pass in and out of Europe while evading intelligence agencies
Abdelhamid Abaaoud boasted of his ability to pass in and out of Europe while evading intelligence agencies

Some of the Paris attackers “took advantage of the refugee crisis” to slip into Europe, the French Prime Minister has said.

Manuel Valls is among the leaders calling for tighter security at the Schengen area’s external borders after Greek authorities confirmed one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France used a fake Syrian passport to enter the EU as an asylum seeker.

The Eurodac fingerprint database showed the man entered through the island of Leros on 3 October on a boat from Turkey and travelled onwards through Serbia and Croatia.

Migrants and refugees enter a registration camp after crossing the Greece-Macedona border

"These individuals took advantage of the refugee crisis…of the chaos, perhaps, for some of them to slip in,” Mr Valls told France 2.

"The external borders of the European Union must be strengthened.

"If Europe does not assume its responsibilities, the whole Schengen system will be undermined.”

He warned authorities were unsure if there were any other groups or individual jihadists “still active”, adding the terror threat would be “long and permanent”.

Video: How the Paris terror suspects were radicalised

Mr Valls was speaking after authorities confirmed the suspected “mastermind” of last week’s massacres, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, died in a raid on a flat in Saint-Denis, where his cousin blew herself up as police closed in.

It believed the heavily-armed extremists were poised to carry out a second attack reportedly targeting Charles de Gaulle airport and the city's financial district of La Defense.

Abaaoud, 27, had already been linked to at least four foiled terror plots this year alone and had boasted to an Isis propaganda magazine about his ability to evade Western security services.

“My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary,” Abaaoud said after supposedly returning to the group’s stronghold in Syria in January.

French police outside the Rue du Corbillon building in Saint-Denis

He had disappeared in Belgium after two of his fellow extremists were killed in a police raid while they were preparing to behead police officers.

Even after Abaaoud was linked to the Paris attacks, the assumption that he was in the Middle East continued until French police were tipped off by foreign intelligence that led them to the apartment in Saint-Denis on Wednesday.

Mr Valls admitted authorities “do not know” how Abaaoud entered France before the attacks on the nation's capital, which left 129 people dead.

His comments came ahead of an emergency meeting in Brussels called by the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, who urged the introduction of a passenger name record system to collect data on those who enter the EU.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, was among those appealing to governments not to blame asylum seekers for the collapse as several nations moved to backtrack on housing thousands of people arriving in Europe.

He said that the fake Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad Al-Mohammad was “left to be seen” by the suicide bomber as part of an Isis strategy to “put the refugees in the spotlight”.

“It is not the refugee outflows that cause terrorism, it is terrorism, tyranny and war that create refugees,” Mr Guterres added.

“It is clear that the Daesh (Isis) strategy is not only to set Europeans against refugees, but within Europe, to set citizen against citizen within communities, community against community within countries, and country against country in the Union.”

Additional reporting by PA

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