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ISIS suspect arrested in Budapest

An ISIS terror suspect who has carried out multiple executions in his homeland in 2016, has been taken into custody, according to the Budapest public prosecutor.

Published: March 25, 2019, 4:20 pm

    On Sunday, the Hungarian metropolitan investigative prosecutor’s office requested the arrest of the suspected Islamic State member, a Syrian man. A central district court judge ordered the detention of the man known as F Hassan on Monday for one month.

    The Syrian is thought to have been a high-ranking ISIS leader who organised suicide bombings and at staged least 20 executions. The twenty were all family members of a person in Homs city who refused to join Islamic State, Reuters reported.

    His lawyer, Laszlo Kelen, told public affairs channel M1 that the suspect has denied the charges against him.

    On Saturday, Hungary’s Counter Terrorism Centre (TEK) has said it was working together with Europol and the secret services of various countries to assess the past criminal activities and network of links maintained in Europe by the Syrian who had applied for asylum in Greece.

    The suspect had obtained refugee status in Greece.

    The municipal chief prosecutor said the 27-year-old is believed to have participated in Islamic State executions in Homs in 2016. Before arriving in Hungary, the suspect had visited a number of other European countries, TEK said.

    The suspect was first detained at Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International airport at the end of last year after producing forged travel documents for himself and a female companion. In a court proceeding he was handed a suspended prison sentence for “human smuggling and other crimes” and was awaiting expulsion from the country, the statement said.

    The Belgian authorities and Eurojust informed the Hungarian authorities of the man’s suspected terrorist activities, the statement added.

    “In a rapid intervention, coordinated by Eurojust, the Hungarian authorities have arrested a high-profile target suspected of committing terrorist activities in Syria, linked to the so-called Islamic State,” Eurojust said.

    Foreign fighters secretly returning to Europe have been subjected to new facial-recognition checks against a library of seized ISIS ID’s, a senior law enforcement official from Europol said.

    The agency has put together a database of 200 000 images taken from propaganda videos and social media to identify returning fighters as they cross into the EU. The technological operation has been launched amid concerns that committed terrorists are slipping across borders too easily with no documents to establish their true identities.

    Peter Van Osselaer, the agency’s head of counter-terrorism operations, said extremists often take migrant trafficking routes, allowing them to avoid domestic security agencies. “It’s really easy to come into the EU without any documentation and without being detected,” Van Osselaer told the Security and Counter Terror Expo in London.

    “We have seen events where people to try to enter Europe at Greece and then try a few months later in Italy.”

    The image library compiled over the last year, has been photographic evidence from national criminal records, social media files and fake travel documents. Europol analysts have also installed an algorithm that allows officials at border hot spots to screen the most suspicious new arrivals.

    But Van Osselaer would not give details of how the new system works. He only said that the results were “magnificent”.

    Some 4 300 foreign fighters from the EU – mostly from Belgium, France, Germany and the UK – are suspected to have taken part in the war in Syria, according to a 2016 report cited by the EU parliament. Some 30 per cent have already returned, the research found.

    “Where foreign fighters end up, how much they have been radicalised, and the collective ability to track them … will be key determinants of the threat,” Russell Travers, a senior official at the US counterter-rorism centre, told the conference in London.

    Previously, Europol’s counter-terrorism expertise has relied heavily on the UK. According to Van Osselaer the impact of a no-deal Brexit is a cause for great concern. Brexit would lock the UK out of information sharing programmes.

    “I think everyone agrees on an operational level there’s no way we can disconnect the UK from Europe,” he said.

    “I think there will be informal structures to keep connected. If there’s a hard Brexit then UK … should be disconnected officially … which would be very, very bad. I don’t think anybody wants that.”

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