Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Intelligence errors in Paris attacks lead to growing criticism

  • French and Belgian intelligence services appear to have missed clues in the lead up to the attacks in Paris (Photo: Moyan Brenn)

French and Belgian intelligence agencies, despite having been warned in advance, appear to have failed to connect the dots in the lead-up to the Paris attacks that saw 129 people murdered.

On Tuesday (17 November), French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve maintained the attacks were orchestrated by “people unknown by our services”, despite having received the name of one of the assailants from Turkish authorities.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

A senior official in Turkey said they had informed France twice before the attacks. They passed the name Omar Ismail Mostefai to their French counterparts in December and then again in June.

Omar Ismail Mostefai shot dead numerous people at the Bataclan concert before blowing himself up.

"We did not, however, hear back from France on the matter. It was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received a request for information on Omar Ismail Mostefai,” the official told Al Jazeera.

The Associated Press said senior Iraqi officials had also warned France of an imminent attack in Paris. The officials said the attacks appear to have been planned in Raqqa, Syria, and activated a sleeper cell in France.

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said European intelligence agencies need to start sharing and exchanging information on known suspects.

"Whether it's the control of our external borders or the exchange of information, including sensitive information, between countries, more and more of it must be done in Europe,” he told AFP.

The criticism comes amid reports that five of the seven Paris assailants had travelled to Syria and back and that the presumed mastermind behind the attacks, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, was a well-known Islamic State (IS) operative.

In an interview with the IS magazine Dabiq earlier this year, the 27-year Belgian national bragged about having slipped past Belgian intelligence, according to the Guardian.

Abu Oud was linked to a dramatic shoot-out with a radical Islamic cell in the Belgian city of Verviers in January. Two people died in the assault.

“We were then able to obtain weapons and set up a safe house while we planned to carry out operations against the crusaders,” he said.

He said he had been allegedly stopped by Belgian authorities but was released because they didn’t recognize him.

“The intelligence [services] knew me from before as I had previously been imprisoned by them,” he added.

On Monday, Belgium’s parliamentary committee with oversight of the country’s intelligence services announced it would open an inquiry into the intelligence failures, reported the Belga news agency.

“It appears that the terrorists managed to evade the intelligence radar and the police. The question now is to know what more we can do,” said Green MP Stefaan Van Hecke.

Magazine

Terrorism shakes Europe

Attacks in Paris, Copenhagen and the Thalys train have revealed a lack of cooperation between member states and put the Schengen area under pressure.

Opinion

Paris attacks merit EU security review

It's easy, but wrong, to blame immigration for the Paris attacks. The security loopholes which made them possible are the fault of EU leaders and can be fixed.

Interview

Former spy chiefs call for EU-US intelligence hub

Europe and the US need an "intelligence hub” to fight terrorism, with grand ideas on EU military integration unlikely to bear fruit, Germany’s former spy chief has said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us