World's police pooling knowledge to fight jihadist threat

January 24, 2016, 6:41am

Soldiers and police patrol Brussels' Grand Place as the Belgian capital remains on the highest possible alert level. (Emmanuel Dunand, AFP) on News24  

AFP on News24

Davos - Police forces around the world have taken measures to better share crucial intelligence to thwart jihadist attacks but technology can help them do far more, international police chiefs said at the Davos gathering of policymakers and moguls.

The attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people have focused the spotlight on the co-operation between countries in fighting a growing threat.

The gunmen and suicide bombers who brought carnage to the streets of the French capital had travelled from Belgium, and many were already known to the intelligence services.

Juergen Stock, the head of international police agency Interpol, told the annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort: "We need to be better not just in sharing but also in sharing specific information.

"The issues we are talking about really are global now."

Interpol has amassed around 6 000 profiles of people earmarked as terrorists and the challenge now is to use technology to allow the regular policeman on patrol to have rapid access to the information, Stock said.

"It is important that this information is available not just at the level of specialised units but also at the level of police station and patrol officer, in his car and in the street," Stock told a security forum on the final day of the Davos conference.

'A European first'

The director of Interpol's European counterpart, Europol, told AFP in an interview that intelligence cooperation had already improved since the attacks in Paris, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

Rob Wainwright said a new European counter-terrorism centre opening this month will further improve information sharing at a time when the performance of the police and intelligence services is under intense scrutiny.

"It establishes for the first time in Europe a dedicated operation centre," Wainwright said in Davos.

French investigators believe the attacks that killed 130 in Paris were planned by a Belgian national, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was widely thought to have been in Syria fighting with IS.

The apparent ease in which Abaaoud slipped back into Europe and moved around the continent has thrown into question the intelligence sharing capabilities of EU police forces.

Wainwright said the new centre in The Hague "will provide French and Belgian police services and their counterparts around Europe with the platform they need to share information more quickly and to crack down on the terrorist groups that are active."

Europol is also aiming to improve its monitoring of the way IS and other extremist groups "are abusing the Internet and social media, in particular for their propaganda and recruitment purposes," the Briton said.

Fake ID documents

Wainwright said the Paris attacks had already acted as a catalyst.

"What I have seen over the last few years but particularly in the last year, in the face of the worst terrorist attacks we have seen in Europe for over a decade, is intensified cooperation."

Wainwright said he was deeply concerned about the "significant growth" in the faking of ID documents for use by extremists.

Investigators believe at least two of the Paris suicide bombers entered Europe via Greece, posing as migrants and using Syrian passports that were not theirs. Their true identity remains unknown.

"There are many criminal actors that have become more active, more sophisticated and also the quality of the faked documents they are providing [has improved], and they responded to the opportunities that the migration crisis in 2015 gave us," he said.

"So we need to make sure that our border guard officials are alive to that threat, that they are better trained, of course, and to make sure that there is access to the right databases."