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Paris attacks: EU in emergency talks on border crackdown

Killing of Abdelhamid Abaaoud increases pressure to tighten checks as France pushes for UN declaration of war on Isis

EU ministers are to hold emergency talks on Friday on tightening border checks after the killing of the alleged ringleader of the Paris attacks in an apartment in the French capital put European leaders under intense pressure to get a grip on Europe’s external and internal borders.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the attacks in the name of Islamic State, which left 129 people dead, died in Wednesday’s assault by police on an apartment in northern Paris.

The 28-year-old was initially thought to have been in Syria – where he had boasted of planning attacks on the west – and his presence in France has raised questions about how one of Europe’s most wanted men could travel freely around the continent.

The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said Abaaoud had played a “decisive role” in the Paris attacks and was suspected of involvement in four of the six terror plots that French intelligence services had foiled so far in 2015.

But, Cazeneuve pointed out, he was the subject of both a European and an international arrest warrant – and no EU intelligence service had alerted France that he was on European soil.

The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said some of the killers had taken advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to “slip in” unnoticed.

The mutilated body of Abaaoud, linked with half a dozen terrorist plots across Europe, was found in the rubble of the badly damaged apartment in St-Denis and identified from skin samples.

Cazeneuve said it was “urgent that Europe wakes up, organises itself and defends itself against the terrorist threat”.

EU interior and justice ministers are to meet in Brussels where they will discuss tightening checks on all travellers at the external borders of the 26-nation Schengen zone as an emergency measure.

Cazeneuve called on his fellow ministers to agree on a Europe-wide passenger information register, improved controls along Europe’s external borders, and better coordination against arms-trafficking.

“France has been calling for these measures for more than 18 months, and some progress has been made,” he said. “But it is not fast enough, and it does not go far enough ... Everyone must understand Europe has to organise, recover, defend itself against the terrorist threat.”

The ministers are set to unveil a battery of mainly electronic measures aimed at combating terror and improving controls. They including tightening checks on all travellers at the external borders of the 26-nation Schengen zone as an emergency measure.

Many have been mooted before, particularly after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January, but not implemented. “But because of Paris, it’s the best chance to push them through because that will vanish in a few weeks,” a senior EU diplomat admitted.

The head of Europol, the EU police agency, on Thursday revealed much higher figures for suspected and potential “foreign fighters” on its watchlists than previously believed.

Separately, France is to push for what is in effect a declaration of war against Isis at the United Nations security council with a resolution calling on members to “take all necessary measures” to defeat the terror group in the wake of the Paris attacks.

French officials at the UN have circulated a draft declaration calling on countries to “redouble and co-ordinate their efforts” against Isis. It is understood the resolution has been worded to encourage unity so it can be swiftly pushed forward.

Britain, which holds the council presidency, said it would enable a vote to go ahead as soon as France is ready.

The French ambassador, Francois Delattre, said on Thursday: “The exceptional and unprecedented threat posed by this group to the entire international community requires a strong, united and unambiguous response from the security council.

“This is the goal of our draft resolution, which calls on all member states to take all necessary measures to fight Daesh [Isis].”

French officials were said to be hopeful of success because Isis has attacked and killed nationals of Russia and China – which hold a security council veto, and regularly use it to block resolutions that suggest intervention across sovereign borders.