Paris attacks: EU ministers to discuss tightening borders

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A state of emergency has been extended in France

European Union interior ministers are discussing tightening the external borders of the passport-free Schengen area in response to the Paris attacks.

France wants EU citizens to be subject to the same stringent border checks as non-EU travellers, and wants easier sharing of airline passenger data.

It has emerged the alleged Belgian leader of last week's attacks travelled undetected from Syria to France.

Meanwhile, Germany's intelligence chief has warned of a "terrorist world war".

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the domestic intelligence agency, told the BBC that the so-called Islamic State (IS) had made Europe its enemy and European countries had to "assume something like Paris can happen any time".

The near-simultaneous attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen on bars and restaurants, a concert hall and sports stadium last Friday killed 129 people and left hundreds of people wounded. IS said it was behind the attacks.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking on Thursday, said it was "urgent that Europe wakes up, organises itself and defends itself against the terrorist threat".

He said France received no warning from other European countries that Abdelhamid Abaaoud - a well-known face of IS and on international "most wanted" lists - had arrived on the continent.

France said it received intelligence from a non-European country some three days after the attacks that Abaaoud had passed through Greece on his return from Syria.

One of the attackers who blew himself up outside the Stade de France, has also been traced by his fingerprints to Greece where he was registered as a migrant.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said some of those involved in the attacks had taken advantage of the migration crisis in Europe - which has seen thousands of asylum seekers arrive on the continent - to "slip into" France unnoticed.

Image source, DH
Image caption,
Hasna Aitboulahcen blew herself up when police raided the flat in Saint-Denis

On Thursday, French prosecutors confirmed that Abaaoud was among those killed in a police raid the previous day.

His bullet-riddled body was found in the wreckage of a flat in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, along with Hasna Aitboulahcen - reportedly Abaaoud's cousin - who died after detonating a suicide vest.

Media caption,
Khemissa: "I don't think [Hasna Ait Boulahcen] had the intention to be a suicide bomber. She was influenced. She was vulnerable."

A draft resolution for Friday's EU meeting says ministers will agree to implement "necessary systematic and co-ordinated checks at external borders, including on individuals enjoying the right of free movement".

This means EU citizens, along with non-EU citizens, will have their passports routinely checked against a database of known or suspected terrorists and those involved in organised crime when they want to enter the 26-nation Schengen bloc.

Ministers will also consider cracking down on the movement of firearms within the EU, the collection of passenger data for those taking internal flights and also the blocking funding for terrorists.

The key to all of this will be the co-operation and sharing of intelligence and information between EU countries, notes the BBC's Alex Forsyth in Brussels.

Image caption,
The Paris attackers

More on the Paris attacks

On Thursday, the French Parliament extended a state of emergency for a further three months from 26 November.

Belgium, which has found itself under pressure after it emerged that a number of the Paris attackers were from Brussels, has also unveiled new security measures including jailing jihadists returning from Syria and extending detention periods for terror suspects.

What is Islamic State?

IS is a notoriously violent Islamist group which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. It has declared its territory a caliphate - a state governed in accordance with Islamic law - under its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

What does it want?

IS demands allegiance from all Muslims, rejects national borders and seeks to expand its territory. It follows its own extreme version of Sunni Islam and regards non-believers as deserving of death.

How strong is IS?

IS projects a powerful image, partly through propaganda and sheer brutality, and is the world's richest insurgent group. It has about 30,000 fighters but is facing daily bombing by a US-led multi-national coalition, which has vowed to destroy it.