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Switzerland boosts counter-terrorism forces

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A police car in front of the French Consulate in Geneva. Photo: Richard Juilliart/AFP
10:59 CET+01:00
The Swiss government said on Friday it was creating 86 new positions dedicated to combatting terrorism as additional resources were needed to effectively investigate and contain increased security threats.

Swiss counter-terrorism forces have in recent months seen "a sharp rise and diversification" of their workload," the government said in a statement.

There was a heightened need for counter-terrorism investigations in Geneva, which is home to the United Nations' European headquarters and which has been on high alert since December 10 amid a "terrorist threat", it said.

Analysis of suspicious communications and intelligence, increased international intelligence coordination and crisis prevention planning as well as security around buildings housing Swiss and foreign interests were all on the rise, the statement said.

It also noted a sharp hike in the number of police investigations into people suspected of supporting terrorist organisations, with 70 such probes currently ongoing, including 33 that had prompted the country's attorney general's office to launch prosecution.

"This situation is not expected to improve in the near future," the statement said.

The new positions would be shared between Switzerland's national intelligence service, federal police, migration services and the border guards, and the foreign ministry, it said.

It said that without the additional resources, investigations and much needed security measures might not be implemented in a timely manner, which could have "serious consequences for the security of the country and population."

Authorities in Geneva have been searching possible extremists with links to the Islamic State (IS) group, amid reports that US intelligence had identified a jihadist cell in the city.

In Geneva, which is almost entirely enclosed by France, authorities said the search for possible extremists was being conducted "in the context of the investigation following the Paris attacks".

But multiple sources, who requested anonymity, said there did not appear to be a direct link with the coordinated November 13 gun and suicide bombing attacks that left 130 dead.

In what appeared to be a separate case, two Syrians were arrested in Geneva a week ago after traces of explosives were found in their car.

On Friday, the government said Swiss intelligence had been alerted to an increased security threat at the beginning of November, with indications that IS was sending people to Europe to carry out attacks.

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"The attacks in mid-November confirmed these suspicions," the statement said.

It added the thought that while Switzerland had been mentioned in a propaganda video published by the jihadist group last month, "our country does not appear to be among its priority targets."

But, it warned, the interests located in Switzerland of countries taking part in the US-led coalition bombing IS in Syria, "are increasingly threatened, as were Russian, Jewish and Israeli and Arab interests."

"Citizens and infrastructure of these countries in Switzerland may of course be attack targets," it said.

 

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