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Doubts about Syrian passport dropped by Paris attacker

November 17, 2015

Police in France have been trying to discern whether a passport used by one of the Paris suicide bombers was stolen from a dead Syrian soldier. Germany's interior minister has suggested it was a ploy to set up refugees.

Frankreich Terror in Paris Stade de France Polizei
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Spingler

Doubts began swirling around a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the Paris suicide attackers on Tuesday, and French police subsequently released a photo in the hopes he could be identified. The passport was found near a man who detonated a suicide bomb near the Stade de France soccer stadium.

The passport bears the name Ahmad Al Mohammad, of Idlib, Syria, with a 1990 birthdate. But sources close to the investigation told French news agency AFP that though the bomber's fingerprints match that of a man who registered as a refugee in Greece in October, Ahmad Al Mohammad could be a dead soldier in the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose documents were stolen.

Investigators also said that the authenticity of the passport had yet to be verified.

Path through Greece, Croatia

Security officials have been able to track the basic path of the bomber - he arrived in Greece at the beginning of October, and was issued a short-term permit that did not allow him to move outside the city of Corinth. Despite this, he had gone as far as Croatia within days.

On October 8, he registered at the Opatovac refugee camp. From there, Croatian police said he almost certainly headed for Hungary, and then Austria. Austrian Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Grundboeck took great exception to the suggestion the bomber had traveled through Austria, particularly to reports from Reuters journalists that refugees were ushered into the country from Hungary without having their documents checked.

Grundboeck dismissed it as "conjecture and speculation."

Berlin: Bomber intentionally set up refugees

Grundboeck's German counterpart, Thomas de Maizière, warned the public about jumping to conclusions about refugees - saying it was possible that the Paris attackers planted the document to make Europeans suspicious of refugees who have fled "Islamic State" (IS)'s terrorist rule.

De Maizière told the press in Berlin that he found it "unusual that such a person was faithfully registered in Greece, Serbia, and Croatia," saying it was likely "a trail that was intentionally laid."

As investigators continued their pursuit of the true identity of the bomber, a Croatian police official told Reuters news agency that they were working hard to determine if the terrorist had been traveling with anyone else, and if so, their identities as well.

es/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)