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Potential jihadis monitored as fewer leave Switzerland

Markus Seiler, head of the Federal Intelligence Service, presented his department's latest report on Monday. Keystone

In its latest report, the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has said it is monitoring the social media activity of about 400 potential jihadis. However, no individuals have left Switzerland yet this year to fight for jihadi causes. 

Markus Seiler, the head of the FIS, told the press on Monday in Bern that jihadi-motivated terrorism remains a major threat for Switzerland and Europe, as shown by recent attacks in Paris and Brussels.

Switzerland is not a primary target for jihadi organisations, but Seiler said that the intelligence service is mostly concerned about attacks carried out by individuals or small groups with simple tools and minimal logistics. 

A lull in activity?

So far, the FIS has registered 73 individuals who have left Switzerland to fight for jihadi causes. However, none of those have been registered since the beginning of 2016, signalling a possible lull in activity. 

Since the beginning of 2016, 12 individuals have come back to Switzerland after involvement in jihadi activities, and all of them were charged with illegal activities upon return. The federal prosecutor’s office is currently working on 60 such cases overall, according to the report.

Monitoring issues

Last month, three Iraqi citizens were sentenced to prison time for terrorism offences at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona. Authorities acknowledged on Monday that discussions are currently taking place about how to deal with those individuals once they have served their prison terms in a few years. 

Seiler said the prevailing attitude is that they must be treated as ordinary citizens upon release, and that special permission must be sought through legal channels if they are to be monitored in any way.

On Monday, Swiss Defence Minister Guy Parmelin also used the threat of jihadi terrorism to argue for the new federal intelligence and surveillance law, which the Swiss people will soon vote on. Seiler said that monitoring of individuals is currently and will continue to be limited under the new law, especially since more police resources would be needed for increased surveillance activity.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR