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Swiss city fights extremism with anti-radicalization centre

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Winterthur has had several cases of youth radicalization in recent years. Photo: Simon Aughton
12:39 CEST+02:00
The city of Winterthur has launched a new service aimed at preventing radicalization.

Winterthur, in the canton of Zurich, has hit the headlines several times in recent years due to an increasing number of young people in the city turning to Islamic extremism.

The result of 18 months of planning, the new centre is one of a series of measures aimed at countering the “phenomenon of jihadism” in the town, the city council said in a statement.

The centre, modelled on a similar institution in Zurich and established for a limited period until 2018, will provide a contact point for the public to report and discuss cases of extremism and violence.

The issue of home-grown extremism has been a grave concern for Winterthur in recent times.

According to media reports seven young adults from the town have travelled to Syria in recent years, five of whom have not returned.

The Swiss government is currently considering withdrawing the Swiss nationality of one of them, a 19-year-old Swiss-Italian who is thought to have been involved in Isis-linked terrorist atrocities since leaving his home in Winterthur in February 2015.

Last year a Swiss war correspondent told a local newspaper that an Isis cell was operating out of a mosque in Winterthur.

Meanwhile teachers, social workers and youth workers in the city were among those given training to spot potential cases of radicalization in a series of workshops last year.

Winterthur mayor Michael Künzle is also meeting with mosques in the city to “strengthen mutual dialogue” the council said in its statement.

Further measures against radicalization are currently being considered.

“It goes without saying that no quick and easy answers to this new and complex issue are possible,”  said the council.

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