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GENEVA TERROR ALERT

TERRORISM

Geneva: two Syrians held over ‘explosives plot’

Swiss authorities on Saturday said two Syrians had been arrested in Geneva after traces of explosives were found in their car, as police continued to hunt for several suspected jihadists with links to the Isis terrorist group.

Geneva: two Syrians held over 'explosives plot'
Geneva's attorney general Olivier Jornot during the news conference. Photo: AFP

Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot told a news conference that the two men had Syrian passports and only “recently arrived” in Switzerland.

They spoke Arabic, he added.

They were arrested after police were alerted about “their behaviour”.

He sidestepped questions on whether the pair were on visas allowing them to circulate freely through the visa-free Schengen zone.

But Jornot said they were not among the four men being searched as suspected jihadists planning attacks following the Paris carnage on November 13th and whose photographs have been released by the police.

Jornot said the two arrested men said they had recently bought the car they were travelling in and clarified that it only bore traces of explosives and not toxic gases.

He said they were arrested on the day they arrived in Switzerland.

The federal prosecutor's office had said in a statement earlier on Saturday that the two men were arrested on suspicion of the “manufacture, concealment and transport of explosives and toxic gases” and of violating Swiss law prohibiting “groups like Al-Qaeda, Islamic State (Isis) and similar organizations”.

Jornot later clarified that “the vehicle was at one point used to transport explosives” but that it did not necessarily mean it was the two suspects who did so.

The arrests come with the city on edge after Swiss authorities on Thursday opened a probe relating to a “terrorist threat in the Geneva region”, prompting the region to raise its alert level to three on a five-point scale.

Armed police were deployed at sensitive locations across Geneva, which borders France and is home to the United Nations' European headquarters.

The Le Temps daily on Friday cited an unnamed source close to the case as saying the Swiss had received a tip-off from US intelligence about a jihadist cell in Geneva.

Pictures of four individuals suspected of links to Isis, which claimed last month's Paris attacks, were published by media across the country.

Authorities in Geneva had said that 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 13th gun and suicide bombing attacks that left 130 dead in the French capital.

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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