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Paris attacks: Police ramp up security at Northern Ireland's borders

By Staff Reporter

Published 17/11/2015

Special forces conduct a search in the Molenbeek district of Brussels
Special forces conduct a search in the Molenbeek district of Brussels
French President Francois Hollande, flanked by PM Manuel Valls (right), stands among students for a minute’s silence in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris as mourners all over the city paid their own solemn respects
Shoppers at the Christmas market observe a minute’s silence

Security at Northern Ireland's air and sea ports has been "hardened" following the Paris attacks, the PSNI's most senior officer has said.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said: "We have seen several actions coming out of the civil co-ordinating function... hardening up our monitoring of sea and airports."

He told a meeting of politicians from the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Cheltenham the service was well plugged in to UK-wide measures to protect borders.

The PSNI is also stepping up patrols to protect Northern Ireland's Islamic community, although it is understood there are no specific threats.

"Police have made contact with members of the Islamic community and have advised them that they will be seeking to increase patrols in key locations for the purposes of reassurance," Superintendent Bobby Singleton said.

In a statement, the Belfast Islamic Centre said it condemned the Paris attacks "in the strongest terms". "We believe that these horrendous and inhumane attacks are against all human and moral values and are crimes against humanity that cannot be justified under any circumstances and such acts should be denounced wherever they occur," it said.

Meanwhile, an Islamic State (IS) jihadi has been named as the alleged ringleader of the Paris attacks. Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud has been identified as the "presumed" mastermind in the plot that saw 129 people murdered in shootings and bombings in the French capital on Friday.

He was also linked by officials to previous foiled attacks, including the attempted strike on a high-speed train in August which was stopped when passengers overpowered a gunman.

Abaaoud is also said to have recruited his 13-year-old brother to join him in Syria and become one of IS's youngest fighters.

His current whereabouts are unknown, but the IS magazine Dabiq suggested he had escaped to Syria earlier this year.

Today, George Osborne is expected to announce that investment in fighting cyber crime will be doubled to help stop IS attacks on the UK's power, transport or health systems. Warning that the jihadists are "doing their best" to develop the capability to launch online terror assaults alongside Paris-style armed attacks, the Chancellor said funding would reach £1.9bn a year by 2020. Plans for a National Cyber Centre to unite experts and other strengthened capabilities are due to be unveiled in a speech at the Cheltenham base of the GCHQ listening post.

David Cameron has already announced that another 1,900 intelligence agents are to be recruited across MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in light of the IS threat.

In a rare statement in the Palace of Versailles, President Francois Hollande revealed the victims were of 19 different nationalities and hinted his country's state of emergency could be extended for three months.

"France is at war," Mr Hollande said, vowing to destroy IS.

"The faces of the dead people, of the wounded, of the families don't leave my mind."

US President Barack Obama said the Paris attacks were a "terrible and sickening setback" in the fight against Islamic State.

But closing two days of talks with world leaders in Turkey, Mr Obama dismissed calls from critics - including some Republican presidential candidates - to send US ground troops into Syria. He said taking that step "would be a mistake".

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