Suspected Paris attacker Abdeslam was in Italy in August

  • World
  • Tuesday, 24 Nov 2015

BARI, Italy (Reuters) - Suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam travelled through Italy in August with a companion, but his presence caused no alarm because he was not a wanted man at the time, an investigative source said on Monday.

His companion was Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was arrested in Turkey last week on suspicion of involvement in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the source said.

Separately, prosecutors in the southern Italian city of Bari have opened an investigation into suspected Islamist militants who passed through the port on about five different occasions between February and August on their way to Greece, another investigative source said.

This investigation has no apparent connection to the Paris attacks, the source said. Prosecutors suspect that militants, using false documents, are travelling through Italy en route to Syria.

The cases show the difficulties of policing and collecting intelligence in the 28-member European Union, where each country's security forces work independently and have different priorities.

Abdeslam is a French citizen and could therefore travel freely between countries in the European Union's Schengen area, where there are no border controls.

Since the attacks, some countries have imposed temporary controls and there have been calls for the borderless system to be scrapped.

Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up in the Paris attacks, has been on the run since the assault that killed 130 and is the focus of a massive manhunt.

He boarded a ferry in the south-eastern Italian port of Bari on Aug. 1 en route to Patras, Greece, the source said, with another man. Abdeslam returned from Patras to Bari by ferry on Aug. 5. The source gave no further details.

In an interview with an Italian Web site on Monday, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano confirmed Abdeslam had passed through Italy.

"The point is that they were citizens with European passports and ... they were not wanted" by police, Alfano said.

(Reporting by Vincenzo Damiani in Bari; writing by Steve Scherer in Rome; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)

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