WSJ: Jihadists Pass Through Bulgarian-Turkish Border to Join IS
In an article published on Sunday, The Wall Street Journal pointed to Bulgaria as being one of the weak spots through which Jihadists from Europe pass on their way to join IS in Syria and Iraq.
Apart from the more loosely guarded border between Bulgaria and Turkey, Jihadists also often choose the daily ferries between Turkey and Northern Cyprus.
Some of the fighters use meandering bus routes, while others engage in “broken travel”, pretending to be going on family visits or holidays and thus keeping their final destination undisclosed.
The wife of terrorist Amedy Coulibaly used one of these routes to travel to Syria shorty before her husband took hostages and killed four of them at a kosher shop in Paris.
The EU is faced with a double challenge, since it has to not only identify and catch the terrorist suspects, but at the same time keep its commitment to free movement.
According to estimates, there are 20 000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, at least 3400 of them coming from Europe.
The EU has taken steps towards bolstering its counter-terrorism strategy by increased information sharing, but remains careful about the scale of it in order to prevent violation of privacy laws.
Although Interpol and Europol have added more names to their travel blacklists since the summer of 2014, most countries continue to prefer working bilaterally.
The WSJ cites Bulgarian Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov as saying that hundreds of Europeans have crossed the country's border with Turkey on their way to Syria.
Last week the Turkish intelligence warned of Jihadists who might be passing through Bulgaria to carry out terrorist attacks in EU states, which are part of the international coalition against IS.
A senior Bulgarian official revealed that the country has taken measures to boost security, but the increased surveillance at Istanbul airport has led to more people passing through Bulgaria.
In January, Bulgarian police arrested Fritz-Joly Joachin, associate of the Charlie Hebdo attackers, who was traveling on a bus near the border with Turkey.
Joachin was accompanied by three men, who continued traveling to Syria, but were later arrested by Turkish police and extradited to France.
Turkish authorities were critical of Bulgaria for missing to capture the companions.
In a similar vein, Bulgaria accused Turkey of being lax about people passing into the country and thus exposing the EU to returning Jihadists.
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