Some 150 Swiss still unaccounted for

Defence minister, Samuel Schmid (right), said Switzerland may have been used as a transit country by some of the suspects Keystone

The Foreign Ministry says 150 Swiss known to be in the United States are still unaccounted for, following Tuesday's devastating attack on the World Trade Center. Two Swiss were among those killed on one of the passenger airlines, which smashed into the twin towers.

This content was published on September 15, 2001

The ministry said it had received word between Friday and Saturday that some 130 Swiss were safe, leaving 150 still unaccounted for.

It added that in addition to the two passengers who were known to have died, a further six Swiss were thought to have perished when the twin towers collapsed shortly after being rammed by two hijacked airliners.

"One must fear the worst," said Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ruedi Christen, in response to questions about the six.

Swiss leaving Pakistan

Christen confirmed that no Swiss citizens were currently in Afghanistan, apart from a handful working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC said on Friday that it would be pulling out much of its personnel from that country, leaving only 16 workers, compared with the 70 who were there last Tuesday.

Christen added that the 200 Swiss citizens known to be in Pakistan had left or were leaving the country, although he said the government had not put forward any recommendation for them to leave.

Reports said Afghans were also trying to flee the country, amid fears that the US might launch retaliatory air strikes. President George W Bush on Saturday for the first time pointed the finger of blame at the Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be in Afghanistan.

Swiss assisting US investigation

On Friday, the defence minister, Samuel Schmid, said the authorities were investigating whether suspects linked to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has used Switzerland as a transit country.

"The trail of possible perpetrators is leading to various European countries, including to our own," he said, adding that Switzerland was cooperating closely with the US authorities.

He also urged Washington to give strong "consideration" to any retaliation, and mentioned that Switzerland had so far not received any request for US military aircraft to use Swiss airspace.

Blind acts of revenge

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, also cautioned against blind acts of revenge in the wake of the attacks in the US. He said the perpetrators deserved to be punished, but that it was important to ensure that no innocent people were harmed.

In newspaper interviews on Friday, Leuenberger said it would be wrong to blame a single religious group or country for the attacks, and warned that the urge for revenge should be resisted.

"An act of hatred must not be avenged by another act of hatred, injustice must not be avenged by more injustice," he said.

He said democratic values such as freedom and tolerance had to be respected despite an increasing need for security. "It is impossible to build a society free of crime without making it into a police state," Leuenberger said.

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