European spy agencies to boost intel-sharing on extremists

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 11:49 AM

BERLIN (AP) — European intelligence agencies plan to boost their fight against Islamic militants by creating a virtual network to share information among up to 30 countries, officials said Friday.

The Counter Terrorism Group — a discreet and informal grouping of domestic spy agencies from the 28 European Union countries, Norway and Switzerland — aims to create the new platform by July 1, according to a joint statement by German and Dutch intelligence agencies.

The Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by extremists linked to the Islamic State group, which left 130 people dead, prompted renewed calls for greater cross-border intelligence cooperation in Europe.

"Terrorist attacks in Europe, like recently in France, have shown time and again that both IS and al-Qaida operate in international networks," the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, said in a statement.

"In order to prevent further attacks by foreign fighters, all relevant information will have to be made available to European intelligence and security services," he added.

The Counter Terrorism Group, which was founded in 2002, is currently chaired by the Netherlands, which has been tasked with setting up the new intelligence-sharing platform in the first half of 2016.

Rob Bertholee, head of the Dutch AIVD service, said the platform would focus on "foreign fighters and the threat they and their associates pose, and to do so on a multilateral basis and as quickly and as completely as possible."

It wasn't immediately clear how the CTG would deal with the different laws that restrain what information its members can collect and share with other agencies — a perennial problem in the EU, where security remains the task of individual states.

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