Swiss police searching Geneva for suspected jihadists

Swiss police searching Geneva for suspected jihadists

GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
Swiss police searching Geneva for suspected jihadists

AFP photo

Police in Geneva raised the alert level and searched the city on Dec. 10 for several suspected jihadists believed to have links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), security sources said.  

A statement from the Canton of Geneva’s security department said it had received information on Dec. 9 from Swiss federal authorities concerning “suspicious individuals likely to be in Geneva or the Geneva area.” 

Police were “actively looking” for these individuals “in the context of the investigation following the Paris attacks,” the statement said, while reinforcements were deployed at key locations including United Nations buildings.  

“We went from a vague threat to a specific threat,” Geneva security spokeswoman Emmanuelle Lo Verso told Swiss Radio, adding that the search for the suspects was at “a very active phase.” 

A security source at the United Nations complex in Geneva told AFP that the search was for four people with possible ties to ISIL, which claimed the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last month.

The individuals were not believed to have any direct link to the Paris atrocities.  

The UN source said the Palais des Nations - the UN’s European headquarters - was evacuated on the night of Dec. 9 as security personnel conducted office-to-office searches.  

Security guards posted at the UN gates were also carrying sub-machine guns on Dec. 10, a departure from normal practice.  

The statement from Geneva’s government said police “have increased their level of vigilance,” while the ATS news agency reported that security reinforcements were being deployed at key buildings around the city, including the headquarters of major international organizations and the airport. 

According to ATS, the heightened alert level has not led to the cancellation of a major festival due to be held in Geneva’s historic old city over the weekend.

Geneva is just over 500 kilometers from Paris and the Swiss city is almost entirely enclosed by France, with border crossings often unmanned.

Police in the two French regions bordering Geneva - Ain and Haute-Savoie - told AFP that controls had been beefed up at all crossings.  

“The police, the gendarmes and the customs officers are on the ground and are reinforcing their inspections,” said a police spokesman in Ain, with similar comments from an official in Haute-Savoie.