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Terrorism Task force wants travel ban for Swiss jihadis

A photo from a militant website showing Islamic State fighters in Syria

(Keystone)

The Swiss intelligence services are monitoring 70 Swiss alleged to have travelled to conflict zones to join jihadi groups. Given the scale of the problem, the government is considering a travel ban to prevent suspected jihadis from leaving Switzerland.

According to a new report by a special task force put together by the Swiss Federal Office of Police to coordinate action against terrorism and jihad-related travel, there has been an increase in the number of Swiss men, women and minors travelling to conflict areas.

Currently, some 70 cases are being investigated – with criminal proceedings underway in more than 20 cases. As of October, Swiss intelligence had recorded 40 confirmed cases of jihad-motivated travel (+10 since February). Seven others have left conflict zones and some have returned to Switzerland. In addition, 31 other suspected jihadis are being monitored.

Federal police spokesman Alex Rechsteiner told Associated Press the 70 cases include would-be jihadis who traveled to conflict zones like Syria and Iraq, as well as others behind suspicious Internet activities or logistics planning at home.

If there are no criminal proceedings underway, a suspect cannot be prevented from leaving Switzerland. The task force has recommended changing that policy by introducing preventive police measures to stop a departure, notes the task force report. The cabinet has asked the Federal Office of Police to examine whether as a last resort a travel ban could be an effective means of enforcement.

Because of privacy concerns, there has been some controversy over the extent to which traveller data can be used and exchanged. A partial revision of aviation law already requires airlines to hand passenger data to the relevant law enforcement authorities. Now the question, according to the task force, is whether the exchange of that data should be automatic.

Preventing radicalisation in the first place is still a priority that the task force says can be handled via existing anti-violence and extremism structures. In addition, it calls for a means of de-radicalising those returning from jihadist activities.

While the task force and cabinet have decided against a hotline to report suspicious activity, cooperation with social media platforms is foreseen – the goal being to combat terrorism fuelled by violent propaganda appearing on the net.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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