Saturday

15th May 2021

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.

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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.

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