A Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the Paris attackers, The Associated Press, citing two unnamed French police officials, reported on Saturday.
The report has yet to be officially confirmed by French police.
The man, who had detonated a suicide bomb near Stade de France, was one of six known attackers responsible for a wave of violence throughout Paris on Friday and into Saturday morning that left at least 120 people dead.
If a Syrian passport was found on the attacker’s body — and it was authentic — experts still say it is likely the attackers had closer ties to France than to Syria.
“It would certainly suggest that they’d spent time in Syria,” counterterrorism expert Michael Leiter, who served in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told MSNBC’s Alex Witt on Saturday. “But I think we’re probably going to find out that these individuals had very, very deep ties to France, which will likely be many of these guys’ homeland.”
One of the attackers in the Bataclan concert hall, where 118 people were killed, has reportedly been identified as a 30-year-old French national.
The authenticity of the passport, if found, is also unclear.
Syrian IDs and passports are coveted in Europe because it gives refugees from other countries, such as Afghanistan or Pakistan, a better chance of being granted asylum. Most Syrians are automatically given refugee status under international law because of the civil war that has raged in Syria since 2011.
As such, the market for fake Syrian passports is booming.
“There are people who are in Turkey now who buy fake Syrian passports because they know Syrians get the right to asylum in all the member states of the European Union,” Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Europe’s border agency, told radio station Europe 1 in September.
Europe’s broadly pro-refugee policies are likely to come under intense scrutiny following Friday’s attacks. And if a Syrian passport was found on the scene, it will likely provide fuel for those who oppose Europe’s relative open-door policy.
one reason to bring a Syrian passport with you to commit a terror attack — to demonize refugees locally, which is exactly what ISIS wants.
— Mike Giglio (@mike_giglio) November 14, 2015
France and Belgium closed their borders following the attacks, and the Netherlands has said it will tighten security at its borders and airports.
At least 120 people have been reported killed and hundreds more injured in attacks in at least six locations around Paris on Friday night and into Saturday morning.
The French prosecutor’s office said that eight attackers were dead after the onslaught — seven of them from suicide bombings. It’s unclear whether there are more attackers involved.
France was already on high alert since the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris were attacked in January. Those attacks, carried out by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, left 18 people dead. The magazine became a prime terrorist target because of its controversial drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, depictions of whom Islam strictly prohibits.
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