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Suspected jihadists hauled up before court

Four Iraqi nationals accused of trying to plant an Islamic State (IS) cell in Switzerland go on trial at the criminal court in Bellinzona on Monday.

Suspected jihadists hauled up before court
Photo: vitra.com

Two of the four are additionally suspected of planning terrorist attacks.

Three of the men were arrested in Switzerland and have been jailed since spring 2014, the 24 heures newspaper reported online.

The man named as the principal suspect, a paraplegic who relies on a wheelchair to get around, arrived in Switzerland in 2012 and obtained asylum.

The 30-year-old is thought to have joined a terrorist organization in Iraq as early as 2004, the paper said.

Hospitalized in Schaffhausen in the north east of the country before being moved to a centre for paraplegics in the canton of Aargau, he is said to have maintained close links with this organization and to have planned terrorist attacks.

Despite operations and rehabilitation, the Iraqi was active on social media platforms and posted videos supporting sharia law and terrorism, according to the prosecution.

The indictment does not say where the group planned to stage its attacks, but says intercepted conversations made it clear they were to be carried out in the name of IS.

The investigation and arrests were triggered by intelligence from the United States that and Islamic State cell planned an attack on Swiss soil.

In July last year a fourth suspect was detained on suspicion of travelling to Syria to deliver communications devices to IS. 

He is also accused of deleting evidence of his links with IS on Facebook.

Last November the Swiss Attorney General’s Office said active criminal proceedings were underway against 33 individuals over suspected ties to extremist Islamist groups.

The trial is expected to last all week.

 

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TERRORISM

UPDATE: Woman jailed for nine years for knife attack on Swiss shoppers

In a rare case of alleged Islamist "terrorism" in Switzerland, a woman was jailed for nine years on Monday for the brutal knife attack on two shoppers at an upscale department store.

UPDATE: Woman jailed for nine years for knife attack on Swiss shoppers

A Swiss woman accused of slashing two people in the name of the Islamic State group in an upmarket shop
was sentenced on Monday to nine years prison coupled with psychiatric treatment.

The criminal court judges found the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, guilty of two counts of attempted murder, and of violating the Swiss laws against association with Al-Qaeda, IS and related Islamist groups.

The woman, who has not been named, tried to slit the throats of two women shopping at the Manor store in Lugano, in Switzerland’s southern, Italian-speaking Ticino region on November 24, 2020.

The attacker, 28 at the time, was accused of committing a “jihadist knife attack” and had “intended to kill her victims and to commit a terrorist act on behalf of IS” (the Islamic State group), the attorney general’s office said earlier this year.

Random victims

On the day of the attack, the woman had gone to Manor’s kitchen supply division on the fifth floor, picked out a large bread knife and approached a random woman standing nearby.

Grabbing her from behind, the assailant plunged the knife at least 10 centimetres into her throat, missing her main carotid artery “by a few millimetres”, the court heard. 

As she screamed “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and “I will avenge the Prophet Mohammed”, she struck the victim to the ground, and then moved on to a second woman, stabbing the knife towards her face and shouting “I am here for
Isis”.

The second woman suffered defensive wounds to her right hand, but managed with help from others to overpower her attacker and hold her until police arrived.

“The suspect acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness,” prosecutors said, maintaining that she had acted “with the aim of killing (her victims) and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of the ‘Islamic State’.”

Mental health problems

Police quickly discovered the alleged assailant had been linked to a 2017 jihadism investigation.

After “falling in love” over social media with a jihadist fighter in Syria, she had attempted in 2017 to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, it is alleged.

Upon her return, she was deemed to have mental health problems. She was admitted to a psychiatric clinic and fell off the security police radar until the attack three years later, police said.

The assailant had reportedly once been married to a Muslim asylum seeker and had converted to Islam.

‘Very rare’

Experts said the trial marked a rare event, pointing out that such attacks are almost unheard of in the wealthy Alpine country.

Switzerland has never experienced a large-scale terror attack, though it did suffer two other individual knife attacks in 2020 by people with suspected jihadist ties.

“In Switzerland, it’s been very random and very rare that we have people that conduct terrorist attacks,” Christina Schori Liang, a terrorism expert at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, told AFP.

It is even rarer that the alleged jihadist attacker is a woman.

“Isis has never claimed an attack carried out by a woman,” Damien Ferre, founder of the Jihad Analytics group which analyses global and cyber jihad, told AFP.

While there were reports of women carrying out attacks in the battle for Mosul in Iraq in 2004, he stressed that “it was never proven and the group did not communicate about it.”

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