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Terror suspects arrested in joint Franco-Swiss operation

A badge of the Vaud cantonal police
Federal and cantonal officers from Vaud and Neuchâtel were involved in the Swiss part of the joint anti-terror operation Keystone

Nine people have been arrested in France, along with a suspect in Switzerland, in a series of preventive anti-terror operations. 

Anti-terrorist operations were launched on Tuesday in Menton and Aix-en-Provence in southern France, in the Paris region and in Switzerland, according to judicial sources. Ten people aged between 18 and 65 were arrested. 

Nine were taken into custody in France and one in Switzerland following these operations, after an investigation launched in July. A joint investigation team had been set up with the Swiss authorities. 

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) confirmed the information in a press statement: “As part of criminal proceedings being conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland against two suspects, several buildings were searched today in the cantons of Neuchatel and Vaud and one of the two suspects has been arrested. At the same time in proceedings being conducted in France, several buildings were also searched and arrests made. Among those arrested in France was the second suspect in the Swiss proceedings.” 

Ongoing investigation 

The office said it had launched a criminal investigation in July into a 27-year-old man with Swiss nationality. It cited suspected involvement in terrorist activity and banned Islamist militant groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State. The investigation was more recently extended to include a 23-year-old Colombian woman, it said. 

“Today, as part of the OAG’s investigation and with support from Federal Police Office and the cantonal police in Neuchatel and Vaud, several buildings were searched in the two cantons. In addition, the Colombian woman who is a suspect in the Swiss proceedings was arrested,” it said in a statement. 

The OAG later confirmed that the 23-year-old Colombian would remain in prison for at least three months, following the approval of a request for “preventive detention.”

Investigating possible plot 

The operations were part of an investigation opened in July focused on suspicious activity by a person in Switzerland using the Telegram messaging network, according to a French judicial official. 

The official added that the arrests made in France and Switzerland were aimed at clarifying details of a suspected plot. No details were given concerning identities. 

The Swiss-based chief suspect had communicated with people in France on social networks about unspecified violent acts, the official said. A French security official said the suspected plot did not appear to be fully developed but authorities acted Tuesday out of concern that the group was moving toward action. 

Swiss prosecutors told Reuters that they had no indication that any attack was planned in Switzerland.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb appeared to downplay the arrests, telling reporters during a visit to Germany on Tuesday that, “in a relatively habitual way, we arrest a certain number of individuals who appear that they could be dangerous.”

The arrests took place a week after France introduced tougher national security laws to permanently replace emergency powers given to police and intelligence services following deadly attacks by Islamist militants on Paris two years ago.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR