A Syrian passport found near the body of one of those responsible for the terror attacks in Paris belonged to someone allegedly posing as one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Greece from Turkey in recent months, the police ministry in Athens said.
The news came after searches and arrests were made in the main Muslim quarter of Brussels late on Saturday, and there was also the suggestion from Bavarian authorities that a Montenegrin arrested nine days ago with a car laden with weaponry may also have been involved.
The widening web of suspected links across Europe looked certain to close down the hatches on its borders as the epic struggle to cope with the worst ever immigration crisis since the second world war continues.
Paris attacks: how events unfolded
Poland promptly said the Paris attacks meant it could have no part in the EU’s new compulsory quotas system for sharing refugees. If confirmed, the Greek government statement that one of the terrorists reached Paris by entering the EU as an alleged Syrian refugee will play mayhem with Germany’s open-door policies on immigration.
“On the case of the Syrian passport found at the scene of the terrorist attack, we announce that the passport-holder had passed from Leros on 3 October where he was identified based on EU rules,” said the Greek police minister, Nikos Toskas.
Greece has been under strong criticism for months, mainly from Germany, for failing to identify and register the hundreds of thousands passing through the country from Turkey en route to northern Europe. Toskas’ statement appeared to reflect resentment at the criticism.
“We do not know if the passport was checked by other countries through which the holder likely passed. We will continue the painstaking and persistent effort to ensure the security of our country and Europe under difficult circumstances, insisting on complete identification of those arriving.”
The apparent tension in the Greek statement was made more explicit by the new Polish rightwing government, which sought to gain political capital from the horrific events by declaring the attacks meant the EU’s compulsory system of quotas for sharing refugees was dead.
“Poland must retain full control over its borders, asylum and immigration,” said the new minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymanski.
The speed and timing of his remarks sparked an outcry forcing him to tone down his criticisms, but the issue will remain persistent over the coming months. Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister strongly opposed to immigration, will feel vindicated in his view that western Europe is reaping what it has sown through a disastrous policy of liberal multiculturalism that will not be repeated in central and eastern Europe. He has plenty of support.
The disaster will also put pressure on the German chancellor Angela Merkel, the foremost proponent of openness towards refugees, to shift position. She hopes to make big progress towards stemming the flow of refugees in talks with Turkish leaders at a G20 summit in Antalya over the next two days. But she is under mounting pressure from within her own coalition to erect tighter border controls.
“We need to know who is travelling through our country,” said Horst Seehofer, the Bavarian prime minister and leader of Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union. “As well as more security measures, we need tighter control of the European borders, but also of the national borders.”
A 51-year-old Montenegrin man is in custody in Bavaria in southern Germany on suspicion of supplying arms and explosives to the Paris attackers, the authorities in Munich said.
The man was stopped in a Volkswagen Golf with Montenegrin plates near Bavaria’s border with Austria on 5 November. A pistol was found under the engine hood and the car was then taken apart to reveal a sophisticated smuggling operation with automatic weapons, 200 grammes of TNT, hand grenades and ammunition carefully concealed in the car’s bodywork, according to Bavarian public radio.
Bavarian investigators immediately alerted the French authorities after the man was arrested, the report said. The interior ministry in Munich confirmed the report.
“Someone transporting several Kalashnikovs, hand grenades, and explosives could be from the serious crime sector. But there are reasons to suspect that this is about terrorist intentions, or someone supplying weapons to terrorists,” said Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian interior minister. The interior ministry was “intensively investigating together with the French authorities whether there is a connection with the events in Paris”.
Examination of the suspect’s mobile phone and of the car’s GPS system indicated the detainee was en route to Paris. In addition to the alleged Montenegrin and German connections, there were reports that at least one of the terrorists’ cars had Belgian registration plates, adding to the European dimension of the atrocities.
Belgian police raided several addresses in the heavily Muslim-populated Brussels district of Molenbeek late on Saturday, detaining several. Belgian media claimed three of the assailants in Paris were Belgian.
The Belgian justice minister, Koen Geens, told Flemish television that the arrests came after a car with Belgian registration plates was seen close to the Bataclan theatre in Paris on Friday night. He said it was a rented car. source www.theguardian.co.uk
Hungary PM Viktor Orban pic: www.volkskrant.nl