As the dust settles on the Paris attacks, intelligence agencies are scrambling to gather information on the reported attackers. Passports collected on-scene have helped identify the nationalities of a few of the attackers, most of whom are from the European Union. A Syrian passport has also been found, though authorities have warned it could be fake.
French authorities believe that as many as 20 people were involved in planning the attack, claimed by ISIS (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State). Most of the released information indicates that the attackers were born and raised either in France or Belgium. Omar Ismail Mostefai (1) and Salah Abdeslam (2) — who is still at large — are the two names to be officially released so far. Mostefai, who detonated himself in a suicide attack on Friday, was a French national who grew up south of Paris while Abdeslam was born and lived in Brussels.
Abdeslam’s brother Ibrahim (3) also detonated a suicide vest on Friday while another Abdeslam brother (4) was allegedly arrested on Saturday’s raid of Brussel’s Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district. Bilal Hadfi (5) and another unnamed Frenchman (6) were also identified by media and authorities. A Syrian passport with the name of 25-year-old Ahmed Almohamed was found near the bombing site and was registered to a man who landed on a Greek island on Oct. 7, and crossed into Serbia a few days later, but French authorities haven’t announced yet if the fingerprints matchup.
The Syrian passport is the subject of much controversy at the moment. Some European officials have said they will no longer accept refugees. American politicians have also gotten in on the act with discriminatory comments that would punish all Muslim Syrian refugees for an attack that actually involves many homegrown elements. Analysts believe such overzealous reactions actually play into the hands of extremist groups like ISIS.
“The Islamic State’s strategy is to polarize Western society — to ‘destroy the grayzone,’ as it says in its publications. The group hopes frequent, devastating attacks in its name will provoke overreactions by European governments against innocent Muslims, thereby alienating and radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the continent,” Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, wrote in the Washington Post. “The atrocities in Paris are only the most recent instances of this accelerating campaign.”
The business of selling fake Syrian ID cards and passports has thrived in places like southern Turkey, as some reporters have shown. Europe has not set up a system of mass-resettlement for refugees. Instead, they enter countries like Greece in high numbers and are quickly ferried into mainland Europe. Some may be posing as refugees and carrying fake passports, though shutting down borders would prove a tough task for European officials. “An Australian-style policy of turning back boats would be impossible to enforce because Europe’s eastern shores lie less than six miles from where refugees set sail, rather than dozens,” Patrick Kingsley writes in the Guardian.
…[a mass-resettlement program] would enable Europe to screen refugees before they arrive; work out who they are and where they’re from; and decide where they should go, and when they should get there. If such a process can be completed for a large enough group of people, and in a swift enough fashion, it would help deter a majority of refugees from traipsing through Europe in the current chaotic way. It would also give European governments a better chance of weeding out potential bombers – a fact that some Syrian refugees have acknowledged themselves.
The Paris attacks show that ISIS doesn’t need to send members disguised as Syrian refugees to Europe. ISIS doesn’t believe in political borders which leads many analysts to suspect that the attackers wanted the passport to be found.
Why would a jihadist who expressly rejects all notions of modern citizenship take his passport on a suicide mission? So it gets found.
— Charlie Winter (@charliewinter) November 15, 2015
Makes sense right? Most Daeshis burn their passports. Why leave one pristine? Because you want it to be found. #ParisAttacks
— Kyle W. Orton (@KyleWOrton) November 15, 2015
ISIS has released statements saying it wants the West to turn on refugees, proving its assertions that Western nations are at war with Islam. The extremist group has also said on at least 12 occasions that Muslims should be seeking refuge in their self-declared Caliphate as opposed to “the lands of the infidel.”
As Jihadology’s Aaron Zelin writes, “The reality is, The Islamic State (IS) loathes that individuals are fleeing Syria for Europe. It undermines IS’ message that its self-styled Caliphate is a refuge, because if it was, individuals would actually go there in droves since it’s so close instead of 100,000s of people risking their lives through arduous journeys that could lead to death en route to Europe.”