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Foreign spies, violent extremists are priority

Digital spying continues to be a source of concern for the Swiss intelligence services (Keystone)

Digital spying continues to be a source of concern for the Swiss intelligence services


Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) said on Monday that its biggest concerns in 2014 include illegal intelligence operating within Swiss borders and the threat from violent extremists to the Swiss abroad.

While Switzerland is not a primary target of jihadist attacks, Swiss citizens in conflict zones in Islamic countries are exposed to an increased risk of abduction. They could also become victims of jihadist violence or terrorist attacks, the FIS said in its 2014 annual report.

The numbers of jihadist travellers from Europe, particularly to Syria, has increased – although numbers remain at a low level, the FIS said. If jihadist travellers return indoctrinated and battle seasoned, there is a higher risk they may carry out attacks or recruit more people to their cause.

The head of the service, Markus Seiler, said on Monday that of the 15-odd "Swiss" jihadists - five confirmed and ten possibles - that had made the journey to Syria, one had returned home while two are believed dead.

Although the potential for violent extremism is a constant issue, the situation in Switzerland is currently “calm”, the FIS said in its report. “In the long-term and in contrast to very many other countries, Switzerland is still very stable and quiet in terms of security policy.”

Still, it is concerned about intelligence gathering, which is increasingly carried out on its territory using advanced information technology. The FIS said what was new was the extent and the possibilities of international data gathering, the breaches of privacy laws by secret services and their cooperation with key technology companies, revealed by Edward Snowden.

The FIS has observed a gradual shift of political weight from the West to the East and also estimates that countries will take several years to deal with the European debt crisis and the repercussions of the Arabic spring.

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