Turkey on Thursday deported eight suspected members of the Islamic State group who were detained at an Istanbul airport this week back to their country of origin Morocco, a government official said.
Counter-terror police detained the suspects at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport after they flew in from the Moroccan city of Casablanca on Tuesday.
Local media said they were planning to sneak into Europe under the guise of being refugees.
“The individuals were detained in accordance with the assessment of on-site profilers, who flagged the Moroccan nationals as terror suspects,” the official told AFP. “All have been deported today.”
The Turkish authorities have profiling teams in place at airports and other transport hubs to immediately assess the threat posed by suspect travellers.
Local media had reported that Turkish police found a hand-written note on one of the suspects detailing a migration route from Istanbul to Germany via Greece.
The Turkish official was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the note or if the suspects were attempting to enter Europe as refugees.
The official said the identification of the suspects however “attests to the fact that the most effective means to fight terrorism is for source countries to share intelligence with Syria’s neighbours”.
The official added that based on intelligence provided by allies, Turkish authorities have imposed entry bans for 20,500 individuals “flagged as foreign terrorist fighters”.
Turkey is the main launching point for migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe, and currently hosts more than two million Syrian refugees.
The Paris attacks last week however raised security concerns over the migrant flow, after the discovery at the scene of a suicide bombing of a Syrian passport registered in the Greek island of Leros on October 3.
Turkey was long chided by its Western allies for not doing enough to halt the flow of IS militants across its 911km border with Syria but it has stepped up security after deadly attacks on Turkish soil blamed on IS militants.
On 6 November, 41 Moroccan nationals were denied entry to Turkey and deported after profilers at Ataturk Airport flagged them as “terror suspects”.
“The problem of instability in North Africa affects Turkey,” another Turkish official told AFP, saying a “process of remilitarisation” was encouraging radicals.
It was revealed on Wednesday that Moroccan security officials had provided information that helped French security services launch raids in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis, a Moroccan source told Reuters.
“We exchanged information. Morocco gave information this morning with regard to the events that unfolded this morning,” the source said, referring to the early Wednesday morning raids.
French police source said that four representatives of the Moroccan security services travelled to Paris on Tuesday to meet the heads of judicial police.