Tribune de Genève.
Based on interviews with Swiss authorities, the French language daily Tribune de Genève sets out four terrorist risk areas for Switzerland.
The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has had islamic terrorism on its radar for a number of years. In 2012 the danger associated with Al-Qaida was considered medium, behind PKK extremists. With the advent of Islamic State everything changed. In the FIS’s latest 2015 report, supporters of jihad are considered the number one risk without rival.
- Terrorism alert level rises in Geneva (Le News – 10.12.15)
Ueli Maurer, head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence sees a higher risk after the events last Friday in Paris. “A terrorist attack in Switzerland is now no longer totally abstract. It is conceivable.” he said to the Sonntags Blick newspaper on 15 November. But what are the risks? The Swiss antiterrorism task force TETRA has identified several.
A growing general risk
The Charlie Hebdo attacks at the beginning of the year pushed Switzerland’s terrorism alert level to red. Since then certain public personalities critical of islam have been placed under Swiss police protection. While there have been no attacks in Switzerland, in October some 40 jihad-motivated trips were recorded, 10 more than in February. Currently there are 70 cases of suspected terrorist activity and more than twenty criminal investigations in progress.
Embassies and consulates of certain Western nations
While Islamic State does not have its sights directly set on Switzerland, it is home to the embassies and consulates of nations openly at war with Islamic State, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia. This exposes Switzerland to collateral risk.
Swiss based sleeper agents or lone wolves
Speaking to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung yesterday, Ueli Maurer said he fears sleeper agents and lone wolf terrorists more than he fears coordinated operations like in Paris on Friday. For example someone living in Switzerland is quietly radicalised via the internet or a close friend and then one day, without much preparation, acts alone. According to FIS “These individuals are difficult to detect and represent a real challenge for counter terrorism.”
Fighters returning from Islamic State if it falls apart
The Paris attacks are certain to change France’s foreign policy. This could accelerate the creation of a grand coalition with the United States, Great Britain and others, leading to a combined military strike of unprecedented force. This could lead to big changes in Syria and Iraq, triggering the return of indoctrinated and militarily trained jihadists to Switzerland.
Measures to combat islamic terrorism
The Swiss response is firstly about security and moves to boost the intelligence effort are in motion. The use of surveillance tools is being extended, in particular the arrival of spying software. Since 2015 there has been a national police coordinator to coordinate actions across cantons in the event of a terrorist attack.
The authorities consider prevention essential. They want to continue to ensure foreigners are well integrated, and avoid “ghettos” like France. They also hope to detect radicalisation early.