Has I.S.I.S. been using a passport machine to print Syrian passports at will? Since overrunning Deir ez-Zour and Raqqa in Syria over 17 months ago, Islamic State has had a large time window to churn out real passports with false information from the Syrian government’s passport printing offices in both cities. A United States Homeland Security Investigations (H.S.I.) Intelligence Report suspects the jihadist group of utilizing blank passport booklets and at least one captured printing machine since the summer of 2014.
According to CNN, State Department spokesman John Kirby said government officials are “mindful” that I.S.I.S. could be using a passport-producing machine. He shared the following alert.
“We have been aware of reports, not just in the press, that they may have obtained this capability. Obviously, it’s something that we take seriously. It’s obviously something, clearly that we’re mindful of.”
— RT (@RT_com) December 11, 2015
While I.S.I.S. control in Deir ez-Zour is not absolute, thus making passport production in the city speculative, Raqqa, as the capital of I.S.I.S. territory, is more likely to have a printing machine actively providing extremists official papers to pass them off as asylum seekers in Europe and the United States.
Evidence is mounting that a possible I.S.I.S. passport trade riding the surge of Syrian asylum seekers is challenging whatever vetting machine the host country has in place to screen refugee claimants.
According to BBC, German customs officers have intercepted possible I.S.I.S.-created packages of Syrian passports. A German finance ministry official confirmed that the passport booklets, both genuine and forged, were in the packets going through the postal screening machine, and police think they may have been destined for illegal purchase by refugees.
Though the ministry official would not speculate on I.S.I.S. involvement or the number of passport booklets snagged by the customs inspectors, the EU is worried about this method of getting fraudulent claimants asylum. EU border security machine Frontex claims that the trafficking of fake Syrian passports is on the rise mainly in Turkey.
Frontex official Fabrice Leggeri, has asserted on French radio station Europe 1 that Arabic-speaking people, I.S.I.S. plants or not, are the prime benefactors of the passport machine. He also questioned the validity of claims for refugee status.
“They may come from North Africa, the Middle East, but they have the profile of economic migrants.”
French and Greek authorities have proof that fingerprints taken from the remains of a Paris-attacker outside France’s national sports stadium, the Stade de France, match the prints of a possible I.S.I.S. operative who crossed into Europe through the Aegean island of Leros on October 3, as a Syrian refugee. The Wall Street Journal suggested that Ahmad AlMohammad, 25, thwarted whatever vetting machine was in place in Leros with the same Syrian passport found near the suicide-bomber’s body outside the stadium in Paris.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 14, 2015
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Serbian police has arrested a man carrying a Syrian passport with details identical to that of the Stade de France suicide bomber. Serbian officials are trying to determine if an I.S.I.S. passport machine is responsible for the deception. The second passport, containing the same information but a different photograph, was discovered in a Preševo refugee center, Serbian newspaper Blic reported.
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey has issued a warning, reported by The Week, about I.S.I.S. using the passport machine to fraudulently send terrorists to the United States. With fake Syrian passports on sale for as little as $200, the Department of Homeland Security questions the ability of the U.S. vetting process to screen Middle East refugees fleeing to the West. The possibility that Islamic State operatives have already entered the U.S. has also been raised.
[Photo by Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images]