Tags: Paris Attacks | france | terrorists | identified | destroy | isis

Confirmed: Paris Terrorists Entered Europe as Refugees

Confirmed: Paris Terrorists Entered Europe as Refugees

Sunday, 15 November 2015 08:41 AM

The holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the gunmen who died in Friday night's attacks in Paris was registered as a refugee in several European countries last month, authorities said. 

The man, identified by Serbian authorities only by his initials A.A., came into Europe through the Greek island of Leros, where he was processed on Oct. 3, Greek officials said on Saturday. He was among 70 refugees who arrived on a small vessel from Turkey.

Serbian authorities said on Sunday the same man had been registered at a border crossing from Macedonia into Serbia a few days later.

The information is significant because if one or more of the Paris gunmen turned out to have come into Europe among refugees and migrants fleeing war-torn countries, this could change the political debate about accepting refugees.

"One of the suspected terrorists, A.A., who is of interest to the French security agencies, was registered on the Presevo border crossing on October 7 this year, where he formally sought asylum," the Serbian interior ministry said in a statement.

"Checks have confirmed that his details match those of the person who on October 3 was identified in Greece. There was no Interpol warrant issued against this person."

A spokeswoman for the Croatian interior ministry said the man was registered in the country's Opatovac refugee camp on Oct. 8 and from there he crossed into Hungary and then Austria.

"There was no (police) record about him at the time of registration and there was no reason for us to stop him in any way," she said.

Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said however the assertion that the suspect attacker had passed through Austria had "no concrete basis."

"According to the latest information available, that is no more than conjecture and speculation," he said.

Any identity documents and fingerprint records would have to be matched with the remains of the attackers to establish whether they passed through various countries posing as refugees, or perhaps bought or stole passports along the way.

Greek government sources said a second suspect attacker was also likely to have passed through Greece.

Following the Paris bloodshed, populist leaders around Europe have rushed to demand a halt to an influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Poland said it could not accept migrants under EU quotas without security guarantees.

Human Rights Watch's Emergency Director Peter Bouckaert said on Twitter the Syrian passport found may have been fake, adding such fake documents are widely available for sale in Turkey.

"The answer to the Paris attacks and the possibility that one of the attackers came by rubber dinghy to Greece... is not to shut the door on those desperately fleeing war," he said, calling for Europe to put in place a coherent asylum policy that would both help those on need and address security concerns raised by uncontrolled flows.

"People fleeing war need refuge. And trying to build fences and stopping them at sea only drives them deeper into the hands of criminal gangs, and drives them underground where there is no control over who comes and goes."

Police questioned on Sunday the relatives of one of the suicide attackers who brought carnage to Paris on Friday, with France denouncing the strikes as an act of war and vowing to destroy the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters that three jihadist cells staged co-ordinated hits at bars, a concert hall and soccer stadium killing 129 people and injuring 352, including 99 who were in a serious condition.

Museums and theatres remained shuttered in Paris for a second day on Sunday, with hundreds of soldiers and police patrolling the streets and metro stations after French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency.

Seven gunmen, all of whom were wearing suicide vests packed with explosives, died in the multiple assaults. The first to be identified was named as Ismael Omar Mostefai, a 29-year-old who lived in the city of Chartres, southwest of Paris.

French media said he was French-born and of Algerian descent. Molins said the man had a security file for Islamist radicalisation, adding that he had a criminal record but had never spent time in jail.

A judicial source said Mostefai's father and brother had been taken in for questioning, along with other people believed to be close to him.

Another source said police had found a car in a suburb east of Paris that was believed to have been used in the assault, suggesting that at least one of the attackers had escaped.

Prosecutors said the slaughter - claimed by Islamic State as revenge for French military action in Syria and Iraq - appeared to involve a multinational team with links to the Middle East, Belgium and possibly Germany as well as home-grown French roots.

Greek officials said one and perhaps two of the assailants had passed through Greece in October from Turkey alongside Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their homeland.

"We are at war. We have been hit by an act of war, organised methodically by a terrorist, jihadist army," Prime Minister Manuel Valls told TF1 television on Saturday night.

"Because we are at war we will take exceptional measures. We will act and we will hit them. We will hit this enemy to destroy them, obviously in France and Europe ... but also in Syria and Iraq," he said. "We will win."

France was the first European state to join U.S. air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq in September 2014, while a year later it extended its air strikes to Syria.

It had already scheduled to send an aircraft carrier to the region later this month.

The names of the first victims have started to filter out on social media, many of them young people who were out enjoying themselves on a Friday night. The dead included one U.S. citizen, one Swede, one Briton, two Belgians, two Romanians and two Mexicans, their governments said.

In the worst carnage, three gunmen systematically killed at least 89 people at a rock concert by an American band at the Bataclan theatre before detonating explosive belts as anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault.

It was the deadliest attack in France since World War Two and the worst such assault in Europe since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which Islamists killed 191 people.

Quoting an unnamed senior official, Israeli television said Israel's spy services saw a "clear operational link" between the Paris mayhem, suicide bombings in Beirut on Thursday, which killed 43, and the Oct. 31 downing of a Russian airliner in the Egyptian Sinai, where 224 people died.

France had been on high alert since Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, killing 18 people.

Those attacks briefly united France in defence of freedom of speech, with a mass demonstration of more than a million people. But that unity has since broken down, with far-right populist Marine Le Pen gaining on both mainstream parties by blaming France's security problems on immigration and Islam.

If confirmed, the infiltration of militants into the flow of refugees to carry out attacks in Europe could have far-reaching political consequences.

The attacks fuelled a debate raging in Europe about how to handle the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and other migrants propelled by civil war in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

   
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Police questioned on Sunday the relatives of one of the suicide attackers who brought carnage to Paris on Friday, with France denouncing the strikes as an act of war and vowing to destroy the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters...
france, terrorists, identified, destroy, isis
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2015-41-15
Sunday, 15 November 2015 08:41 AM
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