France set to increase police at border to 4,800.
President Emmanuel Macron has called for a strengthening of border controls in the European Union’s Schengen zone following recent Islamist attacks in France and Austria.
Mr Macron, speaking during a visit to France’s border with Spain, said that France alone will bolster its border controls by doubling police numbers to 4,800.
The increased controls would target illegal immigration amid “a growing terrorism threat”, he said.
“I am in favour of an in-depth re-foundation of Schengen to re-think its organisation and beef up our common border security,” Mr Macron added.
France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim community, has been hit by a string of militant attacks in recent years.
A knife-wielding Tunisian man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in the French city of Nice on October 30.
France has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect important sites such as places of worship and schools, and France’s security alert is at its highest level.
Meanwhile, large quantities of mobile phone footage have confirmed that the jihadist who killed four people in a rampage in Vienna on Monday was the only gunman, but Austria mishandled intelligence on him, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Wednesday.
Austria arrested 14 people aged 18 to 28 in connection with the attack and is investigating them on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organisation, he said. But it would also have to investigate its own actions, he added.
“Before the terror attack began, according to the information currently available, some things also went wrong,” Mr Nehammer told a news conference. In July, neighbouring Slovakia’s intelligence service had handed over information suggesting the attacker had tried and failed to buy ammunition there, Mr Nehammer and a top ministry official, Director General for Public Security Franz Ruf, said.
“In the next steps evidently something went wrong here with communications,” said Mr Nehammer, who called for the formation of an independent commission to examine the errors made.
After receiving the tip-off from Slovakia, Austria’s domestic intelligence agencies at the federal and provincial level made the necessary checks and sent questions back to Bratislava, Mr Ruf said.
“It’s up to the commission to clarify whether the process went optimally and in line with the law,” he said, when pressed on what had gone wrong. Austria’s National Security Council signed off on setting up the commission later on Wednesday.
The gunman, who was shot dead by police within minutes of opening fire, was a 20-year-old with dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship. Born and raised in Vienna, he had already been convicted of trying to reach Syria to join Islamic State and had spent time in jail.
All of those arrested in Austria have a “migration background”, Mr Nehammer said. Vienna police chief Gerhard Puerstl added that some were dual citizens of Bangladesh, North Macedonia, Turkey or Russia. Neutral Austria, part of the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS formed in 2014, has for years seen jihadist attacks as its biggest security threat and warned of the danger posed by foreign fighters returning from Iraq or Syria or their admirers.
At the end of 2018, the authorities knew of 320 people from Austria who were actively involved or had wanted to participate in jihad in Syria and Iraq. Of these, around 58 people were thought to have died in the region and 93 to have returned to Austria. Another 62 were prevented from leaving the country.
Mr Nehammer repeated criticism of a deradicalisation programme, saying the gunman had “perfectly” fooled the programme to reintegrate jihadists into society.
But Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw, a co-founder of Derad, the organisation that runs the programme, rejected Mr Nehammer’s assertion, telling Reuters: “It was always clear that this person was in no way deradicalised.”