Key Isis suspect arrested in eastern Switzerland

Police have arrested a man suspected of being a key figure behind the radicalization of young Muslims in the eastern Swiss city of Winterthur, according to media reports.

Key Isis suspect arrested in eastern Switzerland
Image: SRF

State prosecutors have not provided information on the charges against the man identified only as S. but he is thought to be suspected of supporting and belonging to a terror organization, state broadcaster SRF reported on Wednesday.

Winterthur is considered a hotspot for radical Islam in Switzerland with at least five men from the city near Zurich having travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight for Isis, the broadcaster said. The arrest of S. is, however, the first time authorities have detained a suspected key figure in the city’s Salafist scene.

S., a convert to Islam, has close links to the inner circle at Winterthur’s An‘ Nur-Moschee and is a respected figure among those wishing to convert to radical Islam, according to a report for the SRF current affairs programme Rundschau.

Rundschau trailed the man for over a year in preparing its report.

The show's presenters said the man had links to Winterthur’s MMA-Sunna-Gym run by Valdet Gashi who later travelled to fight to Syria along with at least two other members of the fitness centre.

S. is also thought to be linked to the German radical ‘Lies!’ (Read!) group which distributes free copies of the Koran. He allegedly travelled with group leader Abou Nagie to Barcelona to visit a firm which prints the Koran.

He is currently being held in a regional prison.

Winterthur, in the canton of Zurich, announced in May it was launching a new service aimed at preventing radicalization. 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

In 2015, 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.

The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service said recently the number of would-be jihadists in the country had risen to 76 since 2001. The FIS is currently monitoring some 400 potential jihadists and a dozen people have been charged with terror-related offences.

More than 60 possible jihadists are currently facing prosecution, Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber said in March.



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.