Why Syrian refugee passport found at Paris attack scene must be treated with caution

The Guardian reports: there are several reasons why it’s worth waiting until all the facts are known before making too strong a link between the attacks and the refugee crisis. The first is a general one: on at least 12 occasions, Isis has actually criticised refugees for fleeing to Europe. “For those who want to blame the attacks on Paris on refugees, you might want to get your facts straight,” wrote Aaron Zelin, an analyst of jihad, in an online commentary about the 12 outbursts. “The reality is, [Isis] loathes that individuals are fleeing Syria for Europe. It undermines [Isis’s] message that its self-styled caliphate is a refuge.” It’s therefore unlikely that the vast majority of Syrians fleeing to Europe are Isis supporters, since their actions are in obvious contravention of the group’s creed.

The second reason for caution is more specific. Investigators still need to verify the Syrian passport was carried by an attacker rather than a dead bystander (one Egyptian passport-holder initially believed to be an assailant turned out to be an injured victim). They will then need to be certain that the passport’s carrier was the same as the passport’s legitimate owner.

It’s possible that it was stolen. Since the possession of a Syrian passport makes it easier to claim asylum in Europe, there is a busy trade in stolen Syrian documents. Syrians interviewed on Greece’s border with Macedonia have described how they were mugged for their passports after leaving the Greek islands as they tried to make their way north through the Balkans. Such passports can be sold on for as much as several thousand euros, in a trade that the EU’s border agency acknowledges is a growing problem. Forgeries are also common; a Dutch journalist recently had one made in the name of his prime minister. [Continue reading…]

CBS News reports: A U.S. intelligence official told CBS News that a name and picture were recovered from the Syrian passport and the individual was not known to intelligence officials.

However, a U.S. intelligence official told CBS News the Syrian passport might be fake. The official said the passport did not contain the correct numbers for a legitimate Syrian passport and the picture did not match the name. [Continue reading…]

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