A former Swiss army officer has founded a militia in Syria to protect Christian minorities from jihadists. (RTS, Cyril Dépraz - swissinfo.ch)
Western soldiers, including around 40 Swiss citizens, have joined the ranks of Islamic militants. The majority of Swiss went to Syria in 2014, according to the intelligence services.
Two years ago, however, Johan Cosar went to northern Syria to protect Christian minorities from the jihadists. His parents come from one of the region’s oldest Christian communities.
In an audio interview with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation he says: "We defend villages and towns where the Islamists come to behead children, women, the old, the young... everyone."
Cosar was born in St Gallen and spent his youth in Ticino. He says his fight is more than a religious battle: "I am defending a land, a religion, history. I defend humanity and democracy."
Switzerland has banned Swiss-based mercenary firms from providing mercenaries abroad and participating in armed conflicts. The ban, introduced in 2013, covers recruitment, training and supplying personnel in Switzerland and abroad. Activities that undermine Switzerland’s traditional neutrality and its foreign policy aims, including the respect of humanitarian law are also outlawed.