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Switzerland "not safe from terrorist attacks"

The rise in violence at sporting events is a major concern Keystone

Terrorism and hooliganism continue to pose a threat to Switzerland, according to an internal security report published on Tuesday.

This content was published on May 30, 2006 - 13:24

The Federal Police Office's annual report noted that right- and left-wing extremism, human trafficking and the activities of criminal organisations were also major concerns in 2005.

Switzerland is not thought to be a primary target of terrorist groups, but situated in the heart of Europe the risk of operations by Islamic extremists in Switzerland "are becoming a real possibility".

While there is no hard evidence of preparations for attacks by terrorists – individuals or groups – the situation could change rapidly, it added.

The suicide bombings in London in 2005 had shown that Europe was not invulnerable to attacks by small, decentralised cells operating locally.

The report also drew attention to the impact of unresolved conflicts and problems in other countries, which it said could provoke strong reactions in members of violent extremist groups based in Switzerland.

The Federal Police Office called for a strengthening of national intelligence gathering, along the lines of its European neighbours.

Without better intelligence Switzerland not only loses credibility, but it risks becoming a favoured base for extremists, it said.

The Federal Police Office repeated its demands for a range of new measures to be able to better monitor telephone calls and emails, carry out surveillance work and secretly access computer files.

Hooligans

The police report also highlighted the growing problem of violence at sporting events in Switzerland.

Although the number of recorded incidents at ice hockey matches has declined, the same cannot be said for football. In total 570 people were arrested and 90 people injured during the 2004-5 ice hockey and football seasons.

The report further underlines the potential threat posed by hooligans ahead of the 2008 European football championships, organised by Switzerland and Austria.

Hundreds, or even thousands of violent football supporters will try to come to Switzerland for Euro 2008, it says.

Earlier this month post-match riots marred the Swiss football championship decider between FC Basel and FC Zurich. One hundred people were injured in one of the worst episodes of football violence ever seen in the country.

Swiss Sports Minister Samuel Schmid commented that the violence in Basel had come as a shock and had shown that extra measures - in addition to the anti-hooligan law passed in March - were necessary.

Swiss anti-hooligan legislation foresees a national hooligan database, travel restrictions for known troublemakers and increased police powers of arrest.

Additional causes for concern in the 2005 annual report remain human trafficking and increasing violence in prostitution circles. The activities of criminal organisations are also put under the spotlight, in particular Chinese and Serbian groups.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The police estimate that there are about 1,800 right-wing extremists and sympathisers, and about 2,000 left-wing activists in Switzerland.
They say there are around 400 hard core, well-organised hooligans in Switzerland. A further estimated 600 people, mostly teenagers, are occasionally involved in violence.
Swiss hooligans are increasingly more violent and younger – many aged between 13 and 16.
Prostitution in Switzerland generates an annual turnover of SFr3.2 billion ($2.64 billion).

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