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Cyprus deports Frenchmen, but says terror ruled out

Cyprus will deport Tuesday six French citizens who had been detained at the island’s main airport on suspicion of extremist links but are not now considered to be a danger, authorities said.

However, police in France said all six are known to the authorities there and that three of them are subject to an “S File”, meaning they are suspected of links to a terrorist movement or group.

The six — five men of Turkish descent and one of Algerian origin — were detained Saturday evening after arriving at Larnaca airport on a flight from Basel, Switzerland, police said.

There was no indication they had planned to stay in Cyprus but were more likely in transit, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said Monday, without specifying if they were headed for Syria.

At the time, Nicolaou said Cyprus had information “suggesting that they have strong links to terrorist groups”.

Yet police said Tuesday the men were not deemed terrorists but were being sent back to Switzerland after being denied entry into the country.

“These people are not considered terrorists but we had our reasons for denying them entry and they are being sent back today,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides told AFP, without elaborating.

“For certain reasons and reasons of security, and based on the laws of the republic, we did not allow them to enter the country,” he said.

Official sources said the fact the men were not being escorted back shows they were not deemed a threat.

But police in France said there is an S File on three of the men, who were not identified. They did not elaborate.

Some people on the list, which is updated daily, are already known to security forces or sentenced for acts of terror, while others are suspected of either having been radicalised or susceptible to it.

In the case of these men, a judicial source said there was no evidence they had any links to the recent suicide bombings and shootings in Paris that left 131 people dead.

Earlier this week, a French source said the six were known to the authorities as part of a Muslim association.

“This is a group of bearded men who openly have an Islamic appearance,” the source said, adding that like all other passengers on the flight to Larnaca, they had been checked by the French authorities.

Cyprus said it had informed the Swiss authorities of the situation and it was up to them to take any further action.

Cyprus has stepped up security at its airports, ports and other public places following the jihadist attacks in Paris earlier this month that left 130 people dead.