Weapons including Kalashnikovs seized in Marseille
Weapons cache including Kalashnikovs seized in Marseille in 2011Getty Images

A leading expert in the trade in illegal firearms in Europe has warned that it would be possible to smuggle a high-powered Kalashnikov assault rifle, the type used by the Paris attackers, into the UK.

Isis terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs and explosives-laden suicide-belts murdered 129 people in attacks on bars, a concert venue and the Stade de France stadium in the French capital on Friday, 13 November.

European ministers are set to meet to discuss how to combat the trade in illegal firearms being circulated by smugglers and weapons dealers throughout the open borders of the Schengen area.

Nils Duquet, a researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute think-tank, said that Kalashnikovs could be smuggled from a hub in the illegal weapons trade such as Belgium to the UK by determined criminals, despite Britain operating its own border restrictions distinct from other European countries, which some argue reduce the possibility of a Paris-style attack being carried out in the UK.

"These guns are being trafficked from the Balkans into the Schengen Zone so they can also be trafficked into the UK," he told IBTimes UK.

"There are different ways you can do it. You can traffic one specific Kalashnikov when you hide it somewhere in the trunk or a fake door. It is difficult to control every vehicle in a very efficient way, every vehicle coming into the UK. It is definitely possible to do so.

"You can also use packages and send specific components then have someone putting them all together in the UK, so there are different ways Kalashnikovs or other types of weapons can be smuggled into the UK."

In the wake of the attacks on Friday, police found a black Seat car with three abandoned Kalashnikovs in the Montreuil suburb of Paris, sparking a manhunt for perpetrators of the attack now at large. The sounds of gunfire and explosions rang out in the French capital again this morning, as two people were killed and seven arrested when police stormed an address in the Saint-Denis area believed to be harbouring amongst others the mastermind of the attacks, Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Investigators believe the terror cell may have met in Brussels before the attack, to assemble the weapons and suicide vests used. In the wake of the January terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and Jewish supermarket in Paris, it was revealed that the assailants had bought weapons including Kalashnikov rifles in Brussels.

Duquet said that while some of the Kalshnikovs sold in Belgium are decommissioned weapons subsequently repaired to shoot live rounds again, "the majority of the Kalashnikovs smuggled into the country are probably fully activated."

Many, he said, were used in the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s, where "sometimes they are being sold to people who are trafficking them into [western] Europe. We are not talking about truck loads, but small quantities that are being smuggled into the Schengen zone, and once you pass the external border it is very easy to circulate them".

A Home Office spokesman confirmed today that Home Secretary Theresa May is to attend an extraordinary meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels on Friday, where topics to be discussed will include tightening rules on deactivated weapons.

In the House of Commons on Monday, 16 November, May said the UK's Border Force had intensified checks on people, goods and vehicles entering the UK - and was carrying out "targeted" security checks against passengers and vehicles travelling to France, she added.

She said that UK security forces had been prepared for an attack by roving terrorist gunmen since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.