Security officials from 164 countries agreed at a meeting in Indonesia to boost efforts to gather and share biometric data to help catch foreign terrorist fighters who cross borders using false names and travel documents.
The resolution was adopted at the 85th General Assembly of the international police organization Interpol that closed Thursday after a four-day meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali.
It urged countries to consider “the systematic collection and recording” of DNA and fingerprints of suspects or convicted individuals following counter-terrorism actions.
The recommendation covered individuals who travel to conflict zones to support or join terrorist groups; people recently deported or incarcerated for terrorism-related offenses; and returnees from conflict zones “assessed as posing a high risk of cross-border mobility and reoffending,” the resolution said.
According to Interpol, some 15,000 foreign terrorist fighters in the Middle East could pose a threat back home through joining radical groups or carrying out terror acts after returning from abroad.
Interpol has files on some 9,000 of these individuals but fewer than 900 of them contain biometric data or high resolution images that could be used for facial recognition, an Interpol statement said.
“The proliferation of aliases, the complexity of fake travel documents, deception tactics falsely declaring individuals have died in the conflict zones, and even basic issues linked to transliteration present mounting challenges to law enforcement in the field,” the statement said, referring to different spelling of names in different languages.
“Although information shared via Interpol has enabled national law enforcement agencies to prevent numerous terrorists and aspiring foreign terrorist fighters from traveling, the lack of biometric data remains a weak link,” Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said.
Interpol member-countries are not exchanging much biometric data on terrorists, he added.
“Governments should take a closer look at the reasons why they cannot or will not share biometric data on terrorists when it is clear that doing so greatly increases the chances of foiling potentially lethal attacks committed by returning fighters,” he said.
He pointed to a case where biometric data helped identify a detainee in Mali as a suspect wanted in Algeria. His fingerprints were also found at the scene of an attack claimed by al-Qaeda on the Grand Bassam resort in Ivory Coast in March that killed 16.
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Nusa Dua, Indonesia
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