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Disaffected Muslim populations at home, unpoliced European borders and battle-hardened fighters now flowing in from Syria and Iraq were creating a perfect storm of terror that is now in danger of defeating the French security services.
France is estimated to have 2,000 citizens involved in Syrian and Iraq jihadi networks and a further 3,800 individuals known to domestic intelligence services as “radicalised”, all watched over by just 3,200 intelligence officers.
“The services are overwhelmed,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, head of the Paris-based Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism, “when you consider it takes 25 officers to provide round-the-clock surveillance on one individual, you can see the difficulty.”
Europe’s open border policy allowing weapons and terrorists to flow freely into France - with at least two of the Friday night attackers coming in from Belgium - means that there are now real fears that it is almost impossible for the intelligence services to keep track of the jihadi threat.
The refusal of Brussels to tighten the Schengen border rules, or begin a Passenger Name Record (PNR) system – an idea first mooted after the 2004 train bombings in Madrid - has left countries like France even more open to attack, Mr Brisard added.