Turkey warned France on Paris attack suspect: Official
A man is detained by a police officer after a raid in the Mirail district in Toulouse, southwestern France, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. AP photoTurkey warned France last year about a suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant, who blew himself up in the bloody Paris attacks, and also foiled a major terror attack in Istanbul on the very same day the Paris attacks occurred, several news agencies quoted two separate Turkish officials as saying.
Turkey previously warned France on the ISIL militant identified as Omar Ismail Mostefai, one of the three perpetrators of the deadly Paris attacks, a senior Turkish official told AFP on Nov. 16, without giving his name.
French authorities did not respond to the comment, the official said.
Turkish police “notified their French counterparts twice in December 2014 and June 2015” about Mostefai, he said.
“We did, however, not hear back from France on the matter,” added the official.
Identified by his finger, which was found among the rubble of the Bataclan concert hall, the 29-year-old Mostefai was one of three attackers, all wearing suicide vests, at the venue where 89 people were killed in the bloodiest scene of the carnage.
Born on Nov. 21, 1985, in the poor Paris suburb of Courcouronnes, Mostefai’s criminal record shows eight convictions for petty crimes between 2004 and 2010, but no jail time.
The official confirmed that Mostefai entered Turkey from the northwestern province of Edirne that borders EU members Greece and Bulgaria in 2013.
“There is no record of him leaving the country,” he said.
However, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported there are no records of Mostefai entering and exiting Turkey in 2013, quoting official sources.
The official said French authorities had only showed interest in Mostefai after the attacks.
“It was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received an information request about Omar Ismail Mostefai from France.”
He said that on October 10, 2014, Turkey received an information request regarding four terror suspects from the French authorities, but not for Mostefai even though he had been identified by Turkey as a potential terror suspect.
Another official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP on Nov. 15 that Turkish authorities foiled a plot to stage a “major” attack in Istanbul on the same day as the deadly gun and suicide attacks in Paris.
Police on Nov. 13 detained five people in Istanbul, the official told AFP, including a suspected close associate of the notorious ISIL militant known as “Jihadi John” who Washington believes was likely killed in a recent drone strike in Syria.
“We believe they were planning an attack in Istanbul on the same day as the Paris attacks” on Nov. 13, the official said.
“The initial investigation shows we foiled a major attack.”
Aine Lesley Davis, who, like “Jihadi John,” was a British citizen who guarded foreign prisoners in Syria, was among the ISIL suspects detained in a swoop in Istanbul.
Davis, a London-born British Muslim who turned to Islamist militancy, has been described by British media in the past as a key figure in the network of ISIL in Syria.
Davis and the other four fellow jihadists had crossed into Turkey from Syria at an unspecified date.
Turkish authorities are investigating if the foiled plot had any links with the Paris attacks which killed at least 129 people, the official said.
“All possibilities are being evaluated,” he said, adding it was possible that those detained had also been planning an attack in Europe.
“Jihadi John,” whose real name is Mohammed Emwazi, is the masked figure who appeared in a string of graphic videos showing the beheading of Western hostages.
He was targeted in a combined British-U.S. operation Nov. 12 in Raqa, the de facto ISIL capital in war-torn Syria.
The U.S. military said Nov. 13 it was “reasonably certain” that the notorious executioner had been killed in the drone strike.
Long criticized by its Western allies for failure to take robust action to stem the flow of ISIL militants across its porous border, Turkey has stepped up security measures in recent months but says the West has also responsibility for sharing intelligence.
Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of one of the gunmen behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January crossed into Syria from Turkey.
The arrest of the five suspected ISIL jihadists came ahead of a summit of G-20 leaders gathering in Turkey’s southern resort of Antalya on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16.
“Syria has become a training ground for terrorists,” the Turkish official said.
“There is a need for joint initiatives to fight terrorism and solve the Syrian crisis.”
Turkey is in intensive dialogue with France, the official said, adding, “Our priority is how we can find the murderers. It’s not a good time for a blame game.”
Turkish Ambassador to Paris Hakkı Akil, meanwhile, has denied claims put forward by CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour that two Turkish passports were found on two of the Paris bombers.
“No, not even a crumb of official intelligence about that has come to us,” Akil said during a televised program on Turkish private station CNNTürk that was broadcasting from Paris on Nov. 15.
“Even if there was such a thing, they [French authorities] would receive necessary intelligence directly from our ministries as there is very serious cooperation with France,” he said, adding that there was “constant interaction between security officials.”
Amanpour had reported on Nov. 15 that two of the three bombers who detonated themselves at the Stade de France, while France and Germany were playing a friendly match on Nov. 13, carried false Turkish passports.
She said she based this claim on an unnamed French senator who was briefed by the French Interior Ministry.
The claims did not refer to whether the mentioned passports were actually Turkish passports or fake Syrian passports that were prepared in Turkey.
At least 129 people were killed and more than 350 wounded in multiple attacks claimed by ISIL on the night of Nov. 13 in Paris.