Brussels, Nov 21 (IANS) European Union (EU) ministers have agreed on tough new border controls, even as the toll in the November 13 Paris terror attacks rose to 130, a media report said.
The toll from the bloody wave of suicide bombings and shootings at the national stadium, a crowded concert hall, cafes and restaurants rose to 130 after the death of a critically injured victim on Friday, The Guardian reported.
At their emergency meeting in Brussels, the EU ministers agreed tighter checks on all travellers – including EU citizens – at the borders of the passport-free Schengen zone after it became clear that suspected ringleader of the attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, who carried a Belgian passport, was able to enter Europe and travel through the Schengen area seemingly at will.
“Terrorists are crossing the borders of the EU,” said Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister.
The meeting agreed to carry out “systematic and coordinated checks” at external borders, including on “individuals enjoying the right of free movement”.
At present, EU passport holders entering the 26-nation Schengen zone are subjected only to minimum identity checks, usually cursory and perfunctory.
The decision, to be implemented immediately but on a provisional basis until the European commission formally changes the rules, means all EU nationals entering the free passport zone can now be vetted for terrorism or criminal connections against Schengen-area and national databases.
All five of the seven jihadi who were shot dead or blew themselves up in the Paris carnage and whose bodies have been identified – including four Frenchmen – recently spent time in Syria, officials have said. The fifth was a foreigner carrying a Syrian passport, who was fingerprinted in Greece last month and later claimed asylum in Serbia.
A cross-border manhunt continues for another of the supposed attackers, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim blew himself up in the attacks. France’s interior ministry said 90 arrests had been made over the five nights since the attacks in a total of 793 properties raided by police, who have seized 174 weapons, 64 drug stashes and 250,000 euros.
The French government has extended the state of emergency by an additional three months.