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EU's Europol in action against Paris attackers - chief

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of Europol said the European Union’s police agency was feeding information to French and Belgian detectives on the trail of the Islamic State militants who killed 130 people in Paris a week ago.

“Europol is supporting it in many, many different ways,” said Rob Wainwright, the British police chief who has run The Hague-based agency for the past six years.

“It’s providing substantial amounts of financial intelligence leads, cross-checking data ... and finding hits in our systems help the French to deal with the aftermath, and increasingly also the Belgian investigators.”

Authorities are trying to piece together how the attacks were organised and trace the Belgian suspect still at large.

Wainwright, who told the European Parliament on Thursday that further Paris-style attacks were likely in Europe, was in Brussels on Friday to brief EU interior ministers as they agreed to press national authorities to share more counter-terrorism intelligence via Europol in response to the events of a week ago.

The Europol director said intelligence sharing was having an impact on the investigation into what appears to have been a Belgian-led cell of militants, some of whom had fought in Syria.

“It shows that when you connect the system at the European level, organisations like Europol can play an important role to protect not only the interests of France in this case and Belgium, but all 28 member states who now face this heightened security threat that is evident to all of us,” he said.

Describing the European Counter-Terrorism Centre, a new body within Europol from January, Wainwright said it would be a “platform” to share intelligence among EU states to track Europeans fighting in Syria and moving back to Europe, as well as to follow illegal firearms and cash and monitor militants’ Internet usage.

“This will greatly enhance the capability of the police authorities in Europe to protect our citizens,” he said.

“The key to respond to such a complex and now clearly an international threat of the dimension we have seen is information sharing -- the ability to collect and connect the right intelligence at the right time.”

“Europol has ... the ability to identify intelligence connections between different kinds of terrorist authorities and also to make the bridge across terrorism and organised crime.

“Increasingly ... this is an important, critical piece of intelligence that investigators need in order to stop attacks.”

Responding to calls by the EU ministers for states to share more information with Europol, especially on foreign fighters in Syria, Wainwright said: “Not all of them are, and I have been telling the ministers today that frankly they need to do more.

“They are still not quite at the level that we need.”

Declining to “name and shame” countries that were not sharing what they might, he said Europol was focusing on ensuring that states had the technical systems in place to allow data to be shared effectively. He said: “This is about building trust within a very sensitive, important police community.”

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Hugh Lawson