Swiss authorities have charged four Iraqi nationals with planning a terrorist attack in Europe on behalf of the Islamic State group.
Though details of the planned attack were sketchy, Switzerland’s attorney general confirmed on Friday that IS “was to claim responsibility (for) these plans if successful”.
The four Iraqis, ranging in ages from 29 to 34, face charges of participating in or supporting a criminal organisation and preparing a terrorist attack. They also are accused of multiple counts of depicting violence and illegally staying in the country.
“Given the international dimension, various countries are affected by this case,” authorities said in a statementexternal link. “The Office of the Attorney General is accordingly in contact with the law enforcement authorities of various states. The cooperation with the US Department of Justice is particularly close.”
The cooperation marks the first time that Swiss and US officials have activated a 2006 treaty that calls for establishing joint investigation teams in the fight against terrorism.
Police first arrested three of the four Iraqis, ranging in age from 29 to 34, in northeastern Switzerland in March and April 2014. They have been in custody since then. The criminal investigation expanded to include a fourth Iraqi in July 2015.
He is suspected of traveling to Syria to bring radio equipment to IS, the attorney general’s office said, and of trying to hide his Facebook connections to a high-ranking IS member.
After a Western counterpart intercepted the suspects’ phone calls, the tips went to the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service, which then alerted the Federal Criminal Police.
The three Iraqis who were initially arrested had allegedly helped about 40 jihadists in Switzerland travel to join IS in the regions it controls within Syria and Iraq. They also allegedly tried to obtain toxic gas and explosives to mount attacks.
Swiss investigators have been working on the case with US and other European authorities.
One of the four men had joined a predecessor organisation of IS in 2004 and made contacts in Syria in 2011 with the Syrian branch of IS that included another one of the suspects, the attorney general’s office said.
“After entering Switzerland at the beginning of 2012, he maintained contact with this group and forged plans for attacks with another accused and a third party who was to travel to Switzerland from abroad,” the statement said.
“The three accused individuals also aided and abetted smuggling further IS followers to Europe, assumed coordination tasks, disseminated propaganda for the actions of the terrorist organisation, gave instructions and also provided operative advice amongst other things,” it said.