ATHENS: Greek police on Saturday said at least one man with a possible connection to the Paris attacks had registered as a refugee with Greek authorities earlier this year. French authorities had asked their Greek counterparts to check the fingerprints of one man who died in the attacks, with a Syrian passport found next to him, in addition to the fingerprints of another man.
There were efforts to establish whether both had registered in Greece, the main entry point into Europe for Syrian refugees. The Greek minister for citizen protection, Nikos Toskas, said one of the men had been registered on the Greek island of Leros in October.
“We confirm that the (Syrian) passport holder came through the Greek island of Leros on October 3 where he was registered under EU rules,” he said a statement.
French police said the passport was found “near the body of one of the attackers” during the investigation into the main site of Friday’s carnage, at the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people were killed. The authenticity of the passport was being checked, but its discovery indicates a possible Syrian connection in Friday night’s violence, which also saw three suicide blasts outside the Stade de France and gun attacks on restaurants and cafes in Paris.
Greek police are not ruling out that the Syrian passport changed hands before the attacks. Separately, a Greek police source said they had not yet matched the second person to refugee application records. This contradicted earlier information from a Greek police source who said the second man had also registered in Greece, with TV station Mega adding this was also on Leros in August.
European security officials have long feared that jihadists could take advantage of the mass migration influx, mainly from war-torn Syria, that Europe has been experiencing since the beginning of the year.
“It is clear now that together with the victims of Islamo-fascism in the Middle East that come as refugees, extreme elements are crossing to Europe,” Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said after an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Greece’s junior minister for migration Yiannis Mouzalas admitted in September that it would be “foolish” to completely discount the possibility of jihadists sneaking into Europe among the refugee wave. Over 800,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with over 3,400 dying in the process.
Tsipras on Saturday insisted that the refugees fleeing Syria “are hunted by the same terrorists” that struck in Paris on Friday. “We must find solutions to the drama of the people who leave their homes, hunted by the same terrorists, and drown in the Mediterranean,” Tsipras said in a televised address. – AFP