Paris killings spark EU security fears

New security measures, including retaining information on everyone who takes a flight into or out of the EU, are back on the agenda following the brutal murders in Paris.

A plan to collect and retain passenger name records (PNR) was put on hold in the autumn after the European Court of Justice ruled that the similarly indiscriminate collection of telecoms information about people not under suspicion violated human rights.

But following the terrorist killings in France, it was back on the table following discussions in Riga between the European Commission and the Latvian government that has taken over the six-month EU presidency.

A special meeting of justice ministers may be held next week in Brussels to review measures to track the movements of foreign fighters, many of them EU citizens fighting in Syria and the Islamic State, and to counter the radicalisation of young people.

The PNR draft law sees airlines handing over data, such as travel dates, itinerary, ticket information, contact details and method of payment to EU countries that could be retained and used by police in preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting serious crime.

The potential move comes as the director general of Britain’s MI5, Andrew Parker, last night warned that a group of al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria are planning “mass casualty attacks” against the West. Mr Parker said transport networks and iconic landmarks were among Western targets of “complex and ambitious plots” by Syria-based extremists. Aviation bomb plots and Mumbai-style shootings in crowded places are thought to be among the plans being developed by the group.

Last night in France, the manhunt continued for two brothers wanted over Wednesday’s deadly attack on the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo which left eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor dead. The search for Said and Cherif Kouachi focussed on a stretch of countryside outside the capital. Teams of heavily-armed officers scoured dense woodland in the 13,000 hectare Foret de Retz, about 80km outside Paris. The woods are near a garage where the brothers reportedly stole food and petrol while hooded and armed with Kalashnikovs. Searches were also carried out in the towns of Villers-Cotterets, Longpont, and Corcy.

The tension gripping France deepened further yesterday morning after a policewoman was shot dead in a southern Parisian suburb in an attack which security officials are believed to be treating as a terrorist act.

However, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said agencies had so far established no link between the Charlie Hebdo attack and yesterday morning’s shooting.

He said a total of nine people are now in custody and more than 90 witnesses have been interviewed. He also said that “all means” available were being deployed to trace the fugitives.

Survivors of the brutal terrorist attack at the magazine hope to print 1m copies of their next issue.

Despite most of its senior journalists being killed, the publication’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said the surviving staff were going to put out an eight-page issue — instead of its usual 16-page run of 60,000.

It has been reported locally that for the next issue, €250,000 will be taken from a press diversity fund managed by French editors. Google is expected to give $300,000 (€250,000) and the Guardian Media Group has pledged £100,000 (€128,000) to the magazine, its editor Alan Rusbridger said last night.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will sign a book of condolences at the French embassy on Ailesbury Road in Dublin this morning. Mr Kenny is due to call French president François Hollande to personally relay the nation’s horror about what happened.

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