The Swiss intelligence community is increasing its alertness and its preparedness for future terror attacks as the number of known jihadis in the country grows.
Last year, the National Intelligence Service (NDB) spent Christmas Eve on alert following a tip that turned out to be a false alarm but the threat hasn’t decreased since then, Tages Anzeiger reports.
The Swiss government often receives communications from other intelligence agencies regarding Islamic terror, notably in 2014 when the American intelligence community helped break up an Islamic State terror cell and passed along information of possible Islamist fighters responsible for the Paris attacks last year hiding in Geneva. This year, the government has 480 known jihadists under investigation – up from almost 200 in 2014.
Before the French and German terror attacks over the past year, the NDB considered the possibility of Islamic State being able to carry out terror attacks in Europe to be unlikely. According to experts, Switzerland is not one of the main targets of the terror group, but they noted the presence of the Swiss flag in an Islamic State video which identifies the enemies of the terror group.
So far, 14 Swiss Muslims who went to Syria or Iraq to fight with the Islamic state have returned to Switzerland, two of them are under active investigation. Earlier this year, the government discovered a jihadi cell in Winterthur that had also sent people to fight in Syria for Islamic State. Swiss journalist of the year 2014 Kurt Pelda said the An’Nur mosque in the city had been responsible for the radicalisation of many Muslims.
Three years ago, police cooperation between the various Swiss regions, or Cantons, was limited to large events like the Euro 2008 football championship. Cooperation between various forces is now common and has been greatly strengthened. Taskforce Tetra (Terrorist Travellers) is a joint effort by Canton police, the NDB, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, and the Federal police and hopes to prevent any future attacks.
The Zurich police have been especially active in their terror prevention training. The force has already conducted drills simulating the attack that claimed the lives of several employees of French magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Norwegian terror attack conducted by Anders Brevik in the summer of 2011 that claimed the lives of 77 people, mainly children.