How Switzerland thwarted a planned terror attack near Geneva international airport

According to a new investigation by Swiss media, jihadists plotted to bomb the oil depot near Geneva international airport, in what could have been the worst terrorist attack on Swiss soil in decades.

How Switzerland thwarted a planned terror attack near Geneva international airport
An aerial view of Geneva international airport. Photo: AFP

News of the planned terror attack in 2019 had not been made public for security reasons but were published in Le Temps newspaper.

The alleged plotter was identified as Daniel D., also known by his Islamic name of Abu Ilias al-Swisri. Born in Geneva, he attended the mosque in the city’s Petit-Saconnex neighbourhood, where he was reportedly radicalised, converting to Islam in 2013.

He joined the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2015, at the age of 20, and received training in an ISIS camp in Syria.

He is currently detained in a Kurdish prison camp.

According to Le Temps, al-Swisri conspired, along with several Switzerland-based jihadists, to attack the gigantic cisterns located in the Vernier section of Geneva, in close proximity to the airport.

The strike was averted when the US intelligence services informed their Swiss counterparts about the impending bombing, planned for April or May 2019.

No details are known about how the authorities managed to thwart the attack. But two Albanians were reportedly intercepted on their way to Geneva and detained for their alleged links to the attack plan.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why a Swiss woman is being stripped of her citizenship

An eerily similar scenario was made public last year, when Swiss authorities were informed of the ISIS plan to attack oil cisterns in the Basel harbour in January 2018.

That particular plot was discovered because ISIS leaders abandoned a hard drive containing details of the attack while they were retreating during fighting in Syria.

Unlike other European countries such as France and the UK, no terrorist attacks had happened in Switzerland since 1976, when an Armenian militant group set off two bombs in Zurich, targeting Turkish diplomats.

However, terror cells have been discovered in Switzerland, such as the one found operating out of the An’Nur mosque in Winterthur in 2015.

“lt would be irresponsible to think that Geneva, with its international institutions, could be safe from any risk “, Mauro Poggia, member of the cantonal parliament, told Swiss television RTS

“Cases of radicalisation are always possible”, he added.











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Fire next to Geneva Airport disrupts flights

Flights to and from Geneva Airport were temporarily disrupted on Friday after a major fire broke out just beyond the perimeter fence, a spokesman for Switzerland's second-busiest airport told AFP.

Fire next to Geneva Airport disrupts flights

Black smoke could initially be seen spewing from a construction site intended to be a future centre for asylum seekers.

“Due to a fire at the edge of the runway, landings and take-offs have been suspended since 5:35pm (1535 GMT),” the airport said on Twitter.

“A reopening of the runway, for take-offs initially, is envisaged around 7:00pm (1700 GMT).”

Airport spokesman Ignace Jeannerat in the evening told AFP that the fire was “under control”, but staff needed to “secure the area and remove the debris”.

The fire was “outside the airport perimeter” and “creating a lot of smoke”, he said.

At around 1630 GMT, an AFP journalist noted that there were no visible flames or smoke. Firefighters continued to hose down the building, which is surrounded by scaffolding and tarpaulins.

Some inbound flights were diverted to Lyon and Basel.

Geneva is Switzerland’s second-busiest airport after Zurich. Wedged in on the edge of Swiss territory, the runway is next to the border with France.

In 2021, the airport welcomed more than 5.9 million passengers, down from the pre-pandemic level of nearly 18 million in 2019.