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SECURITY

Switzerland to probe leading Swiss Muslim

The Swiss attorney general has opened a criminal investigation of a leading member in a Swiss Muslim organisation accused of violating a ban on jihadist groups, the attorney general's office said on Saturday.

Switzerland to probe leading Swiss Muslim
An armed policeman patrols at Geneva Airport. Photo: Richard Juilliart / AFP

Switzerland is on high alert after Islamist militants killed 130 people in Paris in November. A week ago, two Syrians were arrested near the French border on suspicion of having links to Islamic State. Traces of explosives were found in their car.

The attorney general's office did not name the accused, but the Islamic Central Council, which says it is the largest Muslim organisation in Switzerland, identified him as the German head of its multimedia department, Naim Cherni. He was either 23 or 24 years old, the spokeswoman said.

According to State Attorney Michael Lauber, the accused traveled to Syria in October and interviewed the leader of a jihadist umbrella group as well as the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated with al Qaeda.

He subsequently released a roughly 40-minute video, in Arabic with German subtitles, documenting their exchange.

Lauber said he “presented his journey to embattled regions of Syria in a video for propaganda purposes, without having explicitly distanced himself from al Qaeda activities in Syria.”

The Islamic Central Council says on its website it seeks to promote the recognition of Islam in Switzerland and that it had more than 2,500 members at the end of 2012.

A spokesman for the council said earlier on Saturday that its leaders were unable to make a statement immediately but would respond at the press conference with Cherni on Monday morning in Berne.

The Swiss government on Friday announced it had added 86 employees to what it called its “terror fighting” activities within the federal police, intelligence service and border patrol agencies.

Lauber recently opened a criminal inquiry on the basis of a “terrorist threat in Geneva” against unknown persons suspected of belonging to a criminal organisation and of violating the ban on al Qaeda or Islamic State.

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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