Europe

France train attack: Europe 'to tighten rail security'

Belgian and French police next to Thalys train at Brussels. 22 Aug 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The attack highlighted the vulnerability of rail passengers

European ministers have agreed tighter controls at railway stations, the French interior minister has announced.

Bernard Cazeneuve said there would be increased identity and baggage controls at stations and more police patrols on board international trains.

France called the emergency meeting in Paris, attended also by security and transport officials, after the foiled attack on a train on 21 August.

A heavily-armed man was overpowered on the Amsterdam to Paris train.

French prosecutors have filed charges against 25-year-old Ayoub El-Khazzani.

But questions have been raised about how someone was able to board the train in Brussels carrying an assault rifle, 270 rounds of ammunition, a handgun, a box-cutter and petrol.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (left) called the meeting of ministers

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Mr Cazeneuve announced a raft of tighter security measures after meeting with ministers from Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as the UK.

"Visual passenger identity checks will be reinforced as well as random controls. Official inspections of luggage will step up, both at stations and onboard trains, where appropriate," he said.

"Mixed patrols, made up of law enforcement personnel from several countries, already exist in many countries. We will further reinforce these teams and deploy them more extensively."

He said the ministers also agreed to study the idea of name-based ticketing for international trains.

This is significant because it would allow the intelligence services to keep closer track of suspect individuals when they travel, the BBC's Hugh Schofield reports.

But, he adds, in Europe's Schengen border-free zone, the free movement of people is supposed to be matched by closer co-operation between intelligence services - and on this, Mr Cazeneuve, admits, there is still a way to go.

At his news conference, the French interior minister called for "an enhanced and more focused" co-operation between transport bodies, intelligence services and the police.

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Media captionFrench investigators suspect an Islamist motive but the gunman says he wanted to hold up passengers for money

The recommendations from the meeting are expected to be debated first by a European rail security working group on 11 September and then by EU transport ministers meeting on 7-8 October.

Mr Khazzani is accused of carrying out a "targeted and premeditated" jihadist attack.

No-one died in the incident, although two passengers who helped to overpower the gunman were injured in the struggle.

Three Americans and one Briton have been awarded the Legion d'honneur by President Francois Hollande for their bravery, with awards for four more on the train likely to follow.

Mr Khazzani is said to have denied plotting a terrorist attack, saying he found a bag of weapons the night before and planned to use them to rob passengers.

However, prosecutor Francois Molins said his explanation became less clear during questioning and eventually he stopped talking altogether.

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Media captionFootage showed the gunman in the train carriage after he was subdued

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