EU warns of gaps in sharing intel on ISIS fighters

A masked Belgian police officer takes part in police operations in Schaerbeek. (Reuters)

There are still major gaps in intelligence sharing on ISIS fighters returning to Europe in the wake of the Brussels and Paris attacks, the EU’s anti-terrorism coordinator has warned.

The report by Gilles de Kerchove to interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg comes after repeated calls by European Union leaders for greater cooperation in dealing with extremists returning from Syria and Iraq.

“There are still significant gaps with regard to feeding Europol” with data on so-called foreign terrorist fighters who travel abroad and are then at risk of returning to carry out attacks, said the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The European police organization’s database contained only 2,956 foreign fighters despite official estimates saying that around 5,000 EU citizens had travelled to fight with the ISIS.

More than 90 percent of the names on the database were entered in 2015 by just five out of the 28 EU member states, he added.

Another database, the European Information System, contained only 1,615 names, he said.

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“The Paris and Brussels attacks seem to indicate that some if not most of the attackers were known to the police... there also seem to be links to several other member states,” de Kerchove’s report added.

This shows the “importance... of feeding the data” it said.

A European source told AFP that “certain countries were not feeding all the databases”, adding that “dangerous individuals can therefore return and not be detected.”

The EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg called for a “change in mentality” to improve counter-terrorism following the November Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed and the March 22 Brussels airport and metro suicide bombings which killed 32 people.

Both attacks appear to be the work of a single IS cell straddling France and Belgium.

EU migration and anti-terrorism commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said member states’ databases should be “interconnected with a single click.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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