French minister in Turkey to rectify intelligence sharing woes
The French interior minister on Friday arrived in Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart aimed at improving intelligence and security communications after an embarrassing bungle allowed three suspected jihadists to walk free.
Bernard Cazeneuve is meeting Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala days after a communications breakdown between the two sides allowed the three suspects to saunter out of a French airport unhindered.
The mishap also highlighted the importance of smooth intelligence cooperation with Turkey amid the US-led campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants who have advanced to positions close to the Turkish border.
"The events of the last 48 hours came about as a result of a lack of communication between our services," Cazeneuve told reporters after arriving in Ankara. "Measures need to be taken to improve our communications."
The trio, including the 29-year-old brother-in-law of Toulouse jihadist Mohamed Merah who was shot dead by police after he murdered seven in a 2012 killing spree, had been arrested by the Turkish authorities and were being deported to France.
According to the French interior ministry, the pilot of the Paris-bound flight refused to allow them on board. The Turkish authorities put them on the flight to Marseille.
Paris says it was not informed of this change, meaning the stunned suspects were able to walk out of Marseille airport unchallenged. They later turned themselves in.
The French government has sought to deflect responsibility for the debacle, saying it came about largely due to a lack of proper cooperation with the Turkish authorities.
"The French services were not informed about the change of plane," said Cazeneuve, saying the mishap was not due to mistakes committed by the French authorities.
The three men were believed to have been in Turkey after returning from Syria and are suspected of seeking to recruit jihadists to fight with the Islamist militants.
© 2014 AFP