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POLICE

Two arrested in Switzerland over Vienna attack

Two young Swiss men were arrested near Zurich on Tuesday in connection with the deadly shooting rampage in Vienna, Swiss police said.

Two arrested in Switzerland over Vienna attack
Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

“Police investigations led to the identification of an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old Swiss citizen,” Zurich police said in a statement, adding that the two men had been arrested Tuesday afternoon in the northeastern town of Winterthur “in coordination with the Austrian authorities”.

“The extent to which there is a connection between the two people arrested and the alleged assassin is currently the subject of investigation,” the statement said.

Four people were killed during the assault in Vienna on Monday night that saw Kujtim Fejzulai, a 20-year-old described as a Islamic State group sympathiser, open fire with an automatic weapon in a busy area of the historic Austrian capital before being shot dead by police.

Austrian police said Tuesday that Fejzulai was a known Islamic extremist who had spent time in prison.

Austrian security forces swooped on 18 different addresses, including Fejzulai's home, and made 14 arrests as they looked for possible accomplices and sought to determine if he had acted alone.

After reviewing CCTV footage of the shooting spree, which took place not far from the historic Vienna opera house in an area teaming with people in bars and cafes, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the video “does not at this time show any evidence of a second attacker”.

National and regional authorities in Switzerland, which borders Austria, had nonetheless indicated earlier Tuesday that they were investigating any possible links between the Vienna attack and Switzerland.

Zurich police had said they had created a special working group to probe any specific links with the northern Swiss canton, which includes Winterthur. 

Seeing 'complete clarification'

Upon announcing the two arrests, Zurich police said they were working closely with national Swiss police and Austrian police.

“Complete clarification of any possible involvement (of the suspects) is the highest goal of both countries' security services,” it said.

Winterthur, where the arrests were made, has been in the news before in connection with Islamic extremism, after the imam of the city's An'Nur Mosque was charged in 2017 with having called for the murder of non-practising Muslims.

A source with the Swiss intelligence service told AFP that there “currently is no concrete indication of any possible attacks in Switzerland”.

But the source stressed that the terror-threat level in the country was still considered “high”. Switzerland has never experienced any large-scale attacks attributed to Islamic extremists, but its terror threat level was raised to “high” following the deadly jihadist attacks in neighbouring France in 2015.

Earlier Tuesday, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga expressed her “solidarity” with neighbours Austria and France, which has also been hit by several Islamist atrocities in recent weeks.

“Switzerland firmly condemns terrorism and all acts of violence,” she said in a tweet.

“Our democratic values of freedom and tolerance, based on the rule of law, must serve as a shield against barbarism,” she added. nl-apo/vog/pvh

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CRIME

Swiss woman indicted over ‘jihadist knife attack’ in department store

Swiss prosecutors said Wednesday they had indicted a woman for attempted murder on behalf of the Islamic State (IS) group over a brutal knife attack in November 2020.

Swiss woman indicted over 'jihadist knife attack' in department store

The 29-year-old unnamed woman allegedly attacked two women in a department store in the southern city of Lugano.

She has been charged with attempted murder and violating laws against association with Al-Qaeda, IS and related groups, according to the indictment.

She was also charged with unlawful prostitution.

EXPLAINED: Does Switzerland face a threat from terrorism?

The attorney general’s office said the indictment related to a “jihadist knife attack” and the alleged assailant, a Swiss citizen, “intended to kill her victims and to commit a terrorist act on behalf of IS.”

“The suspect acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness. She brutally attacked her randomly-selected victims with a knife, with the aim of killing them and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of the ‘Islamic State’,” it said.

One of the two victims sustained serious neck injuries while the second victim, with help from others at the scene, managed to overpower her attacker and hold her until police arrived.

The attacker was arrested and detained. Police quickly discovered she had been linked to a 2017 jihadism investigation.

The woman had formed a relationship on social media with a jihadist fighter in Syria and attempted to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, police alleged at the time.

She was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, they said, adding that the woman had suffered from mental health problems and been admitted to a psychiatric clinic.

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