Terror attacks

EU vows to tighten border security

French Gendarmes patrolling at the Montpellier airport in southern France, on Nov 20, 2015.
French Gendarmes patrolling at the Montpellier airport in southern France, on Nov 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Pledge comes amid questions about how Paris attack mastermind had entered France

PARIS • European Union ministers have agreed to get tough on border security after the devastating Paris attacks, as a third body was found following a police raid on the ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud's hideout.

The EU ministers agreed at emergency talks in Brussels yesterday to tighten checks on all travellers at the borders of the passport-free Schengen zone, where citizens of 22 EU countries, plus non-EU Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, enjoy passport-free travel.

The European Commission also called for the establishment of an EU-wide intelligence agency in the wake of the Paris massacre last Friday that has left 130 people dead.

Germany's intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen has warned of a "terrorist world war", telling the BBC yesterday that ISIS had made Europe its enemy and "something like Paris can happen any time".

Germany's intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen has warned of a "terrorist world war", telling the BBC yesterday that ISIS had made Europe its enemy and "something like Paris can happen any time".

Meanwhile, in Paris, prosecutors said a third body had been found at the scene of a massive police raid in a northern suburb on Wednesday in which Abaaoud was killed. The identity of the third body was not revealed.

The Moroccan authorities also revealed that they have had Yassine Abaaoud, a younger brother of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in custody since arresting him last month in his father's hometown of Agadir.

Paris investigators confirmed another family link - disclosing that another body found in the rubble of the Saint Denis apartment was Abaaoud's female cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen.

Police raided her mother's house on Thursday as it emerged that the 26-year-old Aitboulahcen had suddenly turned from a party girl who liked wearing cowboy hats to a radical Islamist who adopted the full-faced veil six months ago.

Another key suspect, Salah Abdeslam, remains unaccounted for and is thought to be one of the surviving members of the group of assailants behind the Paris attacks.

His suicide-bomber brother Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up at a cafe, without killing anyone else.

Prosecutors also revealed that Abaaoud, a 28-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin, was filmed at a Metro station in the capital on the night of the carnage.

He was caught on closed-circuit television at 10.14pm in a station in the eastern district of Montreuil less than an hour after gunmen began spraying cafes and restaurants with gunfire in the trendy Canal St Martin area. Montreuil is near where a car believed to have been used in the attack was later found.

In Europe, the proof that Abaaoud - who is believed to be a senior Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) commander - was in Paris on the night of the attacks raises further questions about how he managed to slip through Europe's net.

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls admitted on Thursday that the French authorities did not know how he had managed to get into the country while under an international arrest warrant. Abaaoud was thought to have been in Syria - where he had boasted of planning attacks on the West.

And the EU meeting was held amid concerns about how the Paris gunmen were able to remain under the radar despite some showing signs of radicalism and moving through several European countries.

Abaaoud's links to Syria and the discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the gunmen have stoked concerns that ISIS could be using refugees as a cover.

In the United States, the Republican-dominated Congress on Thursday voted to ban Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the US until tougher screening measures are in place.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'EU vows to tighten border security'. Print Edition | Subscribe