Turkey warned France over key Paris terrorist suspect, official says

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
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Turkey warned France twice in the past year about Omar Ismail Mostefai, one of the identified attackers in the Paris terrorist attacks, but there was no response from French authorities, a government official said.

In 2013, Mostefai entered Turkey - which shares its long southern border with Syria - but there is no record of him leaving, the official said.

France believes the Paris attacks were planned in Syria. Daesh, based primarily out of Iraq and Syria, claimed the strikes at a concert venue and restaurants, killing 129 people.

"The case of Omar Ismail Mostefai clearly establishes that intelligence sharing and effective communication are crucial to counter-terrorism efforts," according to the Turkish official.

While Ankara was not engaging in a blame game, it "expects closer cooperation from its allies in the future."

People can leave Turkey using smuggling routes, primarily by boat to European nations, as nearly half a million Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in their homeland did this year, hoping for a fresh start to their lives.

In recent months, Turkey has significantly stepped up efforts to close the border to Syria, under pressure from domestic security concerns and foreign allies keen to stem the flow of fighters.

Refugees from Syria have complained it is now harder to escape violence in their country. More than 2.2 million Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey at some point since 2011, when the civil war broke out.

Mostefai, a French national was born in the southern Paris suburb of Courcouronnes on November 21, 1985.

The Turkish official said it was only after the horrific attacks in the French capital on Friday night that Ankara received from France an information request about the 29-year-old.

Mostefai, who was known as a small-time criminal, first came up in December 2014, as part of research that Turkey was conducting into four other terrorism suspects at France's behest, the Turkish official said.

In addition to Mostefai, two additional attackers have been identified. One may have traveled from the Middle East. The second is Paris-born Samy Amimour, 28, who was known to law enforcement.

A warrant for Amimour's arrest, on links to terrorism, was issued in 2013.

Turkey has blamed Daesh for two terrorist attacks this year, including twin suicide bombings in Ankara in October which killed 102 people at a peace rally. The terrorist group never claimed the attacks.

Turkish authorities prevented attacks in Ankara and Istanbul over the weekend, and detained a high-profile British Daesh extremist who may have been planning attacks in Istanbul similar to Friday's attacks in Paris.

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