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Fighting terror Swiss government beefs up counter-terrorism forces

Police forces control the area in front of the consulate of France in Geneva due to a high level of alert


The government has announced the creation of 86 new posts dedicated to fighting terrorism. Additional resources are needed to cope with an increased workload and more investigations in recent months, it said on Friday. 

In a statement the government said there had been a sharp rise in the number and range of counter-terrorism tasks over the past few months. These included more investigations into suspicious communications and intelligence, more police and intelligence reporting and analysis, and international coordination. Security has also been beefed up at federal and foreign diplomatic buildings.

The additional positions will be shared mainly between the Federal Intelligence Service, the Federal Office of Police and Swiss border guards.

The federal police are also leading more investigations for the Attorney General’s Office. There are currently some 70 cases of jihadi radicalisation  being investigated in Switzerland, with criminal proceedings underway in 33 cases. Dozens of other suspected jihadis are also being monitored. 

The government says the situation is expected to remain tense for the near future.

Increased threat level

Geneva has been on heightened security alert since December 10 after a foreign authority, suspected to be the CIA, provided information on a potential Islamic State cell in the Geneva area. On December 11, two Syrian men were arrested in Geneva after traces of explosives were found in their car registered in France.

Criminal proceedings have been opened against the two under a law banning groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State. But no names or other information have been given. They both deny criminal intent but they have subsequently been handed over to Swiss federal police.  

Last year the authorities dismantled a suspected Islamic State cell in eastern Switzerland. In that case, three Iraqis between the ages of 28 and 33 were arrested in the northern canton of Schaffhausen in March and April 2014 on suspicion of planning an attack with explosives and toxic gas. They also allegedly helped about 40 jihadists in Switzerland travel to join IS in the regions it controls within Syria and Iraq.

On Friday, the government said the terrorist threat level had increased since the beginning of November. The Islamic State group has allegedly threatened Switzerland three times in the space of a year. An Islamic State video from November warning coalition countries of reprisals featured a backdrop showing 60 flags including the Swiss flag. 

“But our country does not seem to be part of their priority objectives,” the government said on Friday. “However, interests of other states participating in the military coalition which are present in Switzerland are increasingly under threat, as are Russian interests and those of Jews, Israelis and Arabs. The citizens and infrastructure of these countries in Switzerland may represent a target.” 

It said the Paris terrorist attacks in January and November 2015 could inspire certain radicalised people in Switzerland to act.

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