The migrant crisis took on new urgency across Europe on Sunday with reports that at least one assailant from Friday’s attacks in Paris may have traveled there disguised as a refugee. If proven true, the scenario would accomplish twin goals for ISIS: helping it to carry out terror operations in the West while turning local populations against refugees.
ISIS has ratcheted up its propaganda against anyone fleeing the conflict in Iraq and Syria of late — calling those who leave traitors and imploring others to stay and help to build their so-called caliphate. At the same time, it has vowed to make it impossible for Muslims to live peacefully in the West, threatening to destroy what it calls a “gray zone” of coexistence.
News that the attacker may have traveled along a common refugee route — which sees refugees venture from Turkey to Greece by boat before heading deeper into Europe — also underlines a vexing security threat. It would show that ISIS can take advantage of the chaos and suffering of one of the largest human migrations in modern times to make its local propaganda resonate, and also to help it carry out international attacks. Greek and French officials have said the attacker had registered as a refugee using a Syrian passport on the Greek island of Lesbos on Oct. 3.
The man’s identity has yet to be confirmed, and there is increasing speculation about whether the passport was real or forged — fake Syrian passports are both widespread in Turkey and easy to obtain. They are used both by people posing as Syrians to help their asylum cases and by Syrians who have lost their own passports and, due to harsh policies toward refugees by the Syrian government, are unable to get new ones.
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