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Jihadist travellers Task force set up to prevent ‘export of terrorism’

Fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, Syria, on November 2

(Keystone)

A task force led by the Federal Office of Police (FEDPOL) has been established with the aim of preventing jihadists travelling from Switzerland to conflict regions and Islamic attacks being committed in Switzerland. 

The government said in a statement on Friday that since the beginning of the year jihadist-motivated journeys with the intention of illegal fighting and terrorism in conflict areas had reached an unprecedented level.

Last month the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) revealed that between 2001 and September 2014 it had counted 55 cases of people leaving Switzerland to fight in jihadist conflicts – 35 of them since May 2013. Of the total, 31 went to Iraq or Syria, while 24 went to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. 

The FIS added that 18 individuals currently living in Switzerland are believed to have returned from fighting in jihadist conflicts. 

In June a working group was set up by FEDPOL to look into the problems connected to jihadist travellers. It comprised representatives from the FIS, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the foreign ministry, the Federal Customs Administration, the Federal Office for Migration and, since September, the Cantonal Conference of Justice and Police Directors. 

Last month the government’s central security group analysed the working group’s conclusions and recommendations and decided to create a task force, which will consist of the previously named organisations as well as the Federal Office of Justice and Zurich Airport Police. 

The statement said this coordinated fight against the phenomenon of jihadist travellers was in line with EU and UN efforts. 

“The aim is to prevent the export of terrorism from Switzerland into conflict regions,” it said, adding that this included criminal acts committed in Switzerland or with Swiss connections either by Swiss nationals, foreigners or asylum seekers. 

The task force will be responsible for constantly analysing the situation regarding jihadist travellers, collating and exchanging information nationally and internationally in addition to assessing the risks of identified travellers. 

Permanent ban 

On Wednesday the government called for a permanent banexternal link on the militant Islamic State group as well as al-Qaeda and related organisations. 

The cabinet decided to present a draft law to parliament to be discussed during the winter session which begins later this month. The defence ministry said the bill was in line with an existing temporary ban on such organisation. The government has accused the group of serious human rights violations. 

European governments have been grappling with the issue of returning jihadist fighters, with many threatening to crack down on travellers. 

On Friday British Prime Minister David Cameron revealed plans to prevent suspected jihadists, including teenagers, who travel to Syria from returning to Britain for two years. They would only be allowed to re-enter if they consent to face trial, home detention, regular police monitoring or go on a deradicalisation course. 

Denmark, which has the second-highest number of nationals travelling to fight alongside groups like  Islamic State after Belgium, has launched plans to offer returning fighters reintegration and therapy instead of confiscating their passports and threatening them with prison.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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