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GENEVA TERROR ALERT

TERRORISM

Americans in Switzerland advised to be ‘vigilant’

The US Embassy in Bern has advised American citizens to be highly vigilant and to take “appropriate steps to enhance personal security” in the wake of the terror alert in Geneva.

Americans in Switzerland advised to be 'vigilant'
Police patrol Geneva airport. Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP

The embassy issued a “security message” on its website on Thursday after Geneva and Swiss federal authorities announced they were conducting a criminal investigation into the “possible planning of a terrorist event”.

Both federal and cantonal authorities have been short on specifics about the terrorist threat “for tactical reasons” but they say they are looking for suspected jihadists.

Swiss media have reported that at least four and possibly six people are being sought by police in connection with the investigation that has put law enforcement officers on high alert.

The cities of Geneva, Chicago and Toronto were listed as possible targets in a police document cited by local reports.

Guards with submachine guns have been posted outside the entrance to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, and armed police were visible at the airport and main train station.

“In this time of elevated threat, the US Embassy in Bern reminds US citizens to review personal security plans, remain aware of surroundings at all times and monitor local news stations for updates,” the message on its website said.

It also recommended that Americans travelling to or residing in Switzerland enroll in the US Department of State’s “smart traveller enrolment programme”.

The programme is designed to provide the latest security updates and “makes it easier for the nearest US embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency”.

The Canadian federal government said it is “vigilant” and “alert” to terrorist threats after warnings of possible plots against its major cities linked to the Islamic State extremist group, public safety minister Ralph Goodale said on Thursday.

“To this moment there is nothing new or different that would affect the security situation in
Canada,” Goodale told reporters outside parliament in Ottawa.

“There is no change in the status of the alerts (in Canada),” he said.

“There is no new information reported to me that would change the circumstances. 

“If there is something new we would obviously let Canadians know immediately and we will take the appropriate steps.”

The UK Embassy in Bern on its website advised British citizens to “follow the instructions of Swiss security authorities . . . who have confirmed an ongoing police operation in the Geneva area.”

It added that Geneva police had “raised its level of vigilance but Swiss authorities have not otherwise changed the overall public security status in Switzerland”. 

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TERRORISM

Switzerland arrests suspected Isis sympathisers in numerous raids

Four suspected members or sympathisers of the Islamic State group have been detained in Germany and Switzerland in a cross-border operation, prosecutors from the two countries said Tuesday.

Switzerland arrests suspected Isis sympathisers in numerous raids

In Switzerland, three people were picked up in the cantons of Zurich, Sankt Gallen and Lucerne, national authorities said, adding that seven further searches were also carried out.

The suspects, whose identities were not released, are accused of “participation in or support for the outlawed organisation Islamic State”.

In Germany, a man was detained in the western town of Roemerberg, federal prosecutors said.

Identified only as Aleem N., he is “strongly suspected of preparing a serious violent attack threatening the security of the state and of belonging to a foreign terrorist organisation”.

He is believed to have attempted to travel from Germany via Turkey to Syria in September 2020.

“In Syria, the suspect wanted to join the foreign terrorist organisation Islamic State, attain military training and then take part in combat or terrorist attacks,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

However, Aleem N. was unable to reach Syria for reasons that were not immediately clear and returned to Germany.

“At the latest in April 2021 he joined Isis in Germany and carried out vast propaganda activities for the group,” prosecutors said.

His duties included “mainly translating official texts, videos and audio messages by Isis from Arabic into German and distributing them on various Telegram channels in German-speaking areas”.

“Isis considered such activities to be equivalent to taking part directly in violent jihad,” it added.

The suspect is also believed to have taken part in a telephone conversation with Isis leaders in late 2021 to “verify his reliability” before travelling to “IS zones of operation”.

However, “a further attempt” to reach Syria in January 2022 “failed again”.

Aleem N. was to appear on Tuesday before a federal judge who will decide whether to remand him in custody.

German intelligence services estimate that more than 1,150 people have travelled from Germany to Iraq and Syria since 2011 for Islamist reasons.

More than a third have since returned to Germany, while at least 270 have been killed in Iraq or Syria.

“A low three-digit-number” are currently detained in the two countries, according to the intelligence services’ 2021 report.

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