Some 200 counter terrorism officers will be deployed to the Greek islands within weeks in a bid to thwart a strategic level campaign by Islamic State to infiltrate terrorists into Europe, the EU’s top law enforcement officer has said.
The the new task force will be deployed alongside Greek border guards and use techniques developed by British security forces at Heathrow to help spot potential terrorists, Rob Wainwright, the chief of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, said.
We have, in the past year and a half, seen a strategic decision by Isil to do that and carryout spectacular attacks of the type we saw in France in Brussels, he told the Evening Standard.
There will be further attempts at that kind of activity, he added.
The new deployment, which Europol originally announced in May, comes amid mounting concern about the terror group’s attempts to exploit the flow of refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East.
Last week Europol officials discovered several forged passports in a Greek refugee camp which officers believe were intended for use by Isil operatives.
European security services are also concerned about foreign fighters seeking to return home as pressure mounts on the group’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Wainwright said the counter-terrorism operatives will be deployed on rotation to Greece and possibly Italy in the coming weeks.
There will be a second line of defence. We hope to deploy some into the camps where the refugees, the asylum seekers, are being held, Mr Wainwright said.
The European Organization for Migration estimates 270,576 refugees have entered Europe by sea between January 1 and August 24, most of them via Greece and Italy.
Some 3165 have been reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean in the same period.
Security concerns increased this week after it emerged a rescue boat operating in the southern Mediterranean had been shot at and boarded by armed men.
The Bourbon Argos, a rescue boat chartered by the French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, was attacked by unidentified gunmen in a speedboat on the morning of August 17, the charity said. No one was hurt in the attack.
The European Police Office, or Europol, facilitates cooperation between EU national police forces against organized crime and terrorism. Mr Wainwright, a former MI5 intelligence analyst, has headed the agency since 2009.
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