PARIS (AP) — An Iraqi refugee was in French custody Friday on preliminary charges of war crimes and terrorism amid suspicions that he was a senior figure in the Islamic State group who lied to get asylum in France.
The interior minister vowed to crack down on abuses of the asylum system and said intelligence authorities were studying others who arrived at the same time as the suspect.
The man arrived in France in 2016 and was granted asylum in May 2017, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said. French authorities put the man under surveillance the following month, Collomb said.
Interpol said it issued a “red notice” for the man, identified as Ahmed H., at the request of Iraqi authorities. It was unclear when Interpol issued the notice, which is like putting a suspect on the international police agency’s most-wanted list.
Then this March, the man was arrested in Normandy and given preliminary charges of war crimes and murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, among other charges, an official with the Paris prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press. The prosecutor’s office oversees French terrorism investigations.
The interior minister did not explain why it took so long to arrest the man, whom he described as “a senior member” of the Islamic State group.
Le Monde reported that the man is notably suspected of involvement in a 2014 attack in the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Collomb said Iraqi security services confirmed that the man was involved in “abominable crimes.”
Some members of the Islamic State network behind the November 2015 attacks in Paris also arrived in Europe pretending to be war refugees.
Collomb said a new immigration bill working its way through parliament would reinforce the screening of asylum seekers.
“There is a global study of all people who might have come in the same period to France and demanded refugee status,” including those who might have traveled with Ahmed H., Collomb told reporters.