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Reaction Zurich and Basel beef up security following Berlin attack

Candles burn near the attack scene in Berlin, Germany on December 20

(Keystone)

The cantons of Zurich and Basel are tightening up security following an attack on Monday evening in Berlin, which saw a lorry plough into the middle of a Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring 48.

The Basel Christmas marketexternal link in particular is one of the most famous in Switzerland, and police said in a statement on Tuesday that they were reinforcing security and police presence at the market, as well as placing barriers or vehicles at the event’s various entrances. Police said these precautions would be maintained through the New Year.

Zurich will also be taking extra precautions at its Christmas markets. Cantonal police said in a statement that the security situation in Switzerland’s largest city is being “carefully analysed”, although specific measures were not revealed.

The organiser of the Christmas market at Zurich’s train station, Stephan Dübi, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the attacks in Berlin on Monday or in Nice on July 14 this year were “unpredictable”. “We must not be intimidated,” he said.

As for the French-speaking regions of Switzerland, authorities say that additional safety measures have not been taken at Christmas markets, because security has been in a heightened state ever since the Nice attacks.

“We have not waited for recent events to make security arrangements,” said Vaud police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel.

At festivities in Fribourg and Geneva earlier this month, blockades were placed in front of main access routes. At Geneva's Escalade event, volunteers from the public were recruited to keep an eye out for anyone suspicious.



Security at public events in Geneva has been tight since the Nice attacks, such as the use of these blockades for the Geneva Lake Festival in August

Security at public events in Geneva has been tight since the Nice attacks, such as the use of these blockades for the Geneva Lake Festival in August

(Keystone)

The Swiss Intelligence Service said that overall, given the currently available information, the assessment of a threat to Switzerland has not changed.

“The attack in the German capital nonetheless shows that terrorist threats remain high for European countries and are even growing,” the intelligence service said in a statement.

“Although our country isn't in the line of fire of the Islamic State, Switzerland nevertheless is part of the western world that jihadists consider to be hostile to Islam and by virtue of this, remains a possible target for terrorist attacks.”

Condolences

A suspect believed to be the man driving the lorry was detained following the incident, which occurred Monday at 8:14pm local time – one of the market's busiest times. However, he was released Tuesday afternoon due to lack of concrete evidence against him. On Tuesday evening, the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq media agency.

Swiss President Johann Schneider-Amman has said that he is “deeply affected” by the attack in Berlin. He tweeted that “our thoughts are with the victims and their families”.

jsa tweet

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Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has offered Switzerland’s condolences to his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the government’s chief spokesman André Simonazzi, said.

simonazzi tweet

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The Swiss foreign ministry told swissinfo.ch on Tuesday that it had no information at the moment as to whether there were any Swiss victims. Clarifications on this were still ongoing, a spokeswoman said in email. The Swiss diplomatic representation in Berlin is in contact with the local authorities, she added.

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters in Bern on Tuesday that she was “appalled” and “saddened” by the attack.

The Swiss foreign ministry has updated its travel advice external linkfor Germany, saying that people are to keep up to date through the media and follow the advice of the local authorities.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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