The president of a parliamentary security committee has called for tougher monitoring of dangerous individuals, following the news that the Strasbourg Christmas market spent time in a Swiss jail.
Werner Salzmann, the People’s Party (conservative right) politician who heads parliament’s Security Policy Committeesexternal link (SPC), said that “it seems we are not doing enough” when it comes to European cooperation on tackling terrorism.
He was reacting to the news that 29-year-old Chérif C., who killed three and injured 12 at a mass shooting at Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday night, was known to Swiss authorities and had spent several months in jail in Basel.
Salzmann said that the data-sharing among Schengen countries didn’t seem to be working optimally. “We need to pull the finger out on this,” he told Swiss public broadcaster SRF.
Currently, European authorities share information about dangerous individuals, but Salzmann said that “this doesn’t seem to happen automatically”. The SPC would examine the workings of such data-sharing in light of the Strasbourg incident when it meets in early 2019, he said.
Whether this will result in a change in practice is unclear, but for Salzmann, the anti-terror law needs at the very least to be beefed up. He also said that simply placing suspects on ‘threat lists’ is useless if they are not also closely monitored – with ankle bracelets, for example.
Nicoletta della Valle, head of the Swiss Federal Office of Police (Fedpol), defended cooperation between Schengen member states. She told Swiss public television (SRF) that the Schengen Information System (SIS) was the most important search tool for Swiss and European police authorities.
"In all cases, every police officer from Norway to Sicily has access to this information,” she said.
The Fedpol chief insists on a "global approach” to dealing with dangerous individuals, attaching great importance to preventive measures.
"I have often said that when a perpetrator arrives at the police station, it is basically too late," she added.
Chérif C. is still being tracked by French police in a widespread manhunt. Paris is treating the case, in which the attacker was heard to shout “Allah Akbar” before opening fire in his home city of Strasbourg, as a terrorist incident.
Swiss authorities have stepped up border controls following the incident. On Thursday morning, a train running from Basel to Zurich was stopped after a passenger claimed to have spotted somebody matching the description of the attacker. It was a false alarm.