ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained eight suspected members of the Islamic State jihadist (IS) group, state media said yesterday, adding they were planning to sneak into Europe posing as refugees. Counter-terror police detained the suspects in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport after they flew in from the Moroccan city of Casablanca on Tuesday, the official Anatolia news agency reported.
The police found a hand-written note on one of the suspects detailing a migration route from Istanbul to Germany via Greece, Serbia and Hungary, including smuggler boats across the Mediterranean Sea, as well as several train and bus journeys. The eight men told police that they were just tourists who had been planning to spend a few days in Istanbul and had booked rooms at a hotel, but no reservations were found under their names. Turkey is the main launching point for migrants coming to Europe, and currently hosts over two million Syrian refugees.
More than 650,000 migrants and refugees, have reached the Greek islands so far in 2015 using the eastern Mediterranean route, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said earlier this month. The Paris attacks however threw a security spotlight on the migrant flow, after the discovery at the scene of one of Friday’s attacks of a Syrian passport registered in the Greek island of Leros on October 3. Turkey was long criticized by its Western allies for failure to take robust action to stem the flow of IS militants across its porous border. But Ankara has stepped security measures in recent months after a series of deadly attacks blamed on the extremists, including a twin suicide bombing in Ankara that killed 102 people last month.
‘Terror sponsors’ held
Meanwhile, two British nationals banned from travelling abroad after serving jail terms for financing terrorism have been apprehended in Hungary on a train headed for Romania, Hungarian police said yesterday. The two men, named as Jonathan K., 40, and Trevor B., 44, were intercepted on Saturday on an international train at Lokoshaza, a crossing point on the Romanian border. According to a Hungarian police statement, the pair each served two jail terms totaling five years in Britain.
After their release in 2009, both were barred from leaving Britain without permission. The two men were taken into custody by Hungarian police because they did not have legal documents entitling them to stay in the EU member state. One of them presented a British driving licence and the other just a Koran. Only after their detention did it emerge that both were subject to a European arrest warrant, police spokeswoman Viktoria Csiszer-Kovacs said. “The men will appear shortly at a court in Budapest to decide on the extradition,” Csiszer-Kovacs said. She added that it was unclear what their intended final destination had been, although it was possible they were on their way to Syria via Bulgaria and Turkey.
Denmark raises threat level
Meanwhile, Danish police yesterday raised the country’s threat level by one notch to the next-highest level, citing the elevated risk of a terrorist attack after last week’s Paris attacks. “Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Danish police is now raising its internal preparedness level” to “significantly heightened preparedness”, it said in a statement. Police cited the “uncertain situation in a number of European countries.” However, it said the Danish intelligence service PET had “not changed its assessment of the terrorist threat against Denmark, which is still considered serious.” The Danish public would not see any difference in their daily lives as a result of the change, police said.- Agencies