Switzerland launches anti-terror action plan

Justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga on Monday presented to the press a new Swiss-wide action plan to fight against radicalization and violent extremism.

Switzerland launches anti-terror action plan
Justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga. Photo: Aurore Belot/AFP
The plan, developed in consultation with the cantons and communes over the course of a year, contains 26 concrete measures to fight extremism, bringing some measures already in place under one single action plan, the government said in a statement
Five million francs will be invested over five years to support cantonal or communal projects that meet the plan’s aims.
“We must not wait until terrorism hits to take action,” Sommaruga said at a press conference reported by Swiss media.
Collaboration is the most effective way to prevent terror, according to the government. 
The action plan therefore asks cantons, towns and communes to work together to share information, advise local authorities and specify the services they can offer. 
Specialists in education, social services, youth work and police should be made aware of issues surrounding radicalization and be offered training to help them detect early signs of it. 
Wider society also has a part to play in detecting radicalization, feels the government. Those in charge of sports or leisure clubs should receive support and training from higher authorities under the plan. 
Teachers – who “play an important role in the development of a personality” – should also receive specialist support and schools should develop teaching materials and projects to enable discussion of radicalization and extremism.
The plan also recommends cantonal institutions work together to help detect radicalization at an early stage and evaluate the threat posed by suspects. Each canton should designate a body to take charge of radicalized individuals and manage their reinsertion into society.
Several important steps have already been taken around the country to help combat extremism. These must be reinforced and supported by the national action plan, said the government.
The canton of Geneva has already launched several initiatives, including a training course for imams to help them better integrate into Swiss society, and a network of advisors in schools to train staff about the first signs of radicalization.
Back in 2015 teachers in Winterthur were given similar training after five young people in the area left to join Isis.
The city later established a new centre to provide a contact point for the public to report and discuss cases of extremism and violence.
The centre was modelled on a similar institution in Zurich. 


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.