Monday

8th Mar 2021

EU ministers to discuss terrorism amid tightened security

  • Tributes outside a Jewish supermarket in Paris, the scene of a recent attack (Photo: state.gov)

EU foreign ministers on Monday (19 December) are meeting in Brussels to discuss anti-terrorism strategies in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

EU nationals leaving for Iraq and Syria to fight alongside Islamic militant is likely to dominate the talks. Estimates suggest up to 5,000 so-called foreign fighters in the two counties are EU citizens.

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The fear is that some who return may decide to launch attacks.

Counter measures are already being passed in some member states to seize travel documents of suspected jihadists. The idea has received backing from the European Commission.

Last October, the ministers pledged their support to fight the Islamic state and other radical militant groups in the two countries.

They had also backed the US-led military campaign and other United Nations resolutions to stop the black market sale of oil that helps bankroll the Islamic state.

But Monday’s meeting follows a series of anti-terror raids across Belgium, France, and Germany that saw more than 20 people apprehended.

With Belgian troops deployed in the city streets over the weekend to guard potential targets like Jewish schools and the US and French embassies, there is a heightened sense of insecurity.

Belgium’s national security threat level has been raised to three - its second highest.

An Ipsos poll in Belgium suggest over 80 percent of the population fear another attack after the fatal shoot out last Thursday between two suspected militants and police in Verviers.

Police seized guns, explosives, at large stash of case, and police uniforms at the premises. Prosecutors say the suspects were set to launch a deadly attack against police.

Meanwhile, a 27-year old Belgian national suspected of being the mastermind behind the foiled Verviers plot was detained in Greece along with another suspect.

But Belgium's federal prosecutor later told Le Soir newspaper that the two held in Greece have no connection to the uncovered Verviers cell.

Belgian police continued house searches on Sunday but made no arrests.

The country has the highest number of per capita foreign fighters in Europe with 350 out of a population of 11 million. Around 100 have reportedly returned and another 50 killed in action abroad.

A top EU official warned that not all threats could be contained.

The head of the EU’s police agency, Europol, told Sky News on Saturday that it is not possible to prevent all attack plots.

“Stopping everything is very difficult, containing the threat fully is very difficult, but I’m sure we will prevail, as we have prevailed against other forms of terrorism in the past,” he said.

Meanwhile, in France some 10,000 troops have been deployed following the three-day killing spree in Paris.

An Ifop poll in France suggests four out of ten people surveyed say the media should not publish cartoons that could offend Muslims.

EU ministers call for more border checks

EU interior ministers have called for changes to the passport-free Schengen area to allow for "systematic checks" of personal data to fight terrorism.

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