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Cyprus beefs up north-south security as precaution

Cyprus has tightened security along a ceasefire line on the ethnically divided island, reflecting increased concern about possible militant threats.

As part of a heightened alert across Europe since Islamist militants killed 17 people this month in France, officials said security had been tightened at ports and airports, and along crossing points linking the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides of the island.

At one pedestrian checkpoint on Tuesday, all non-Cypriots either inbound or outbound from the government-controlled south had their passports scanned, in contrast to an earlier policy of random and cursory checks, a Reuters witness said.

It was one of the most visible security upgrades since restrictions on crossings were eased more than a decade ago.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognised only by Ankara.

“It is one of the measures to face possible terrorist threats,” a government source told Reuters. Police sources said the measures were purely precautionary and in line with measures taken around Europe.

The head of Cyprus’s intelligence service said last week that a small number of Cypriot-registered pick-up trucks could have inadvertently ended up in the hands of Islamic State militants after being driven to the north of the island.

Western diplomats have said a small number of Europeans seeking to join Islamic State may have used Cyprus as a transit point to avoid raising suspicions, arriving in government-controlled territory before heading to northern Cyprus and then on to Turkey and Syria.

Restrictions on crossing the line were eased in 2003, and now a number of checkpoints are in operation which are not considered international borders by the Cypriot government.

Source: Reuters

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