International Probe Investigates Terrorists’ Path to Paris

The discovery will likely inflame anti-migrant sentiment and increase scrutiny of refugees

Nov 14, 2015 at 4:01 PM ET

One of the terrorists who carried out the deadly attacks in Paris Friday night may have been a Syrian who arrived in France after traveling through Greece, French security officials said Saturday.

The man was reportedly identified as Syrian based on his fingerprints and a passport found near his body, though it is not yet clear that the passport actually belongs to the gunman. At least one report said sources believed other attackers had come from Iraq.

Officials in Europe as well as the U.S. were working to determine the different routes that might have led the attackers to Paris, as the investigation broadened across French borders into Belgium, where police pursuing leads made three arrests.

The news would confirm the worst fears of other migrants who have traveled en masse from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. These migrants typically travel through Greece, then move on to Austria, Hungary, Romania, Croatia or Poland before reaching their final destinations. Smugglers have previously told Vocativ that among the desperate migrant families clinging to rubber boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea were ISIS extremists as well as former members of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra.

If proven true, the discovery that one of the terrorists had come through along the path followed by so many migrants would likely inflame anti-migrant sentiment in Europe and increase scrutiny of those who have already arrived on the continent after fleeing war and persecution in countries as far away as Afghanistan and Eritrea.

Indeed, the political backlash has already begun. In Poland, the incoming minister in charge of European affairs said the new conservative government wouldn’t uphold the commitment that the previous administration made to take in some 7,000 people.

In Slovakia, Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has opposed taking in migrants, held an emergency meeting with his national security council.

“We have been saying that there are enormous security risks linked to migration. Hopefully, some people will open their eyes now,” Fico told journalists after the meeting.

On Facebook, Syrians in Europe urged each other to shun discussions on religion and to avoid confrontations with any rightwing or extremists they might run into.

“Meet any hostile act with absolute silence,” wrote a Syrian named Monis Bukhari, now living in Germany. “These coming moments in Europe will be filled with tension, it is important we don’t give the press any reason to criticize us. We must show sympathy to the victims, and show that we reject all kinds of terrorism wherever they occur around the world.”

Syrians living in Germany were discussing on line plans to attend vigils outside the French embassy in Berlin to show their solidarity.