Swiss Prosecutors Arrest Two in Geneva Over Terror Alert

  • Arsenal of arms found during other search, unrelated to terror
  • Geneva authorities have raised level of vigilance for canton

The Swiss Attorney-General’s office has opened a second criminal proceeding in relation to a terror alert after arresting two people in the Geneva region.

The two, arrested on Friday, are being held on suspicion of manufacturing, concealing and transporting explosives, according to an e-mailed statement on Saturday from the attorney-general in Bern. They are also suspected of violating Swiss laws prohibiting groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

“The top priority and common goal is the prevention of terror activities,” said the attorney-general’s office, which is working closely with local and federal police, and the canton’s security department.

Geneva police announced Thursday that they were looking for possible terror suspects after raising the level of vigilance for the Swiss canton. The heightened alert comes less than a month after attacks in Paris killed 130 people. Additional agents are being deployed and security measures are increased in places such as Cointrin airport and the United Nations’ offices in the city. The arrests came the same day as the U.S., Russia and the United Nations met in Geneva for preparatory talks on Syria.

‘Unimaginable Arsenal’

The two people arrested had authentic Syrian passports and the investigation on them has been transferred to the federal prosecutor’s office, Geneva Chief Prosecutor Olivier Jornot said during a press conference Saturday.

In a separate search Thursday, unrelated to the terror alert, Geneva police found an “unimaginable arsenal” of arms, including an AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, muskets, a pump shot gun, hatchets and other weapons, Jornot said. They were found at the home of a Swiss national, who also had a Third Reich flag and a large quantity of literature and provisions, he said.

“There will be other such cases because the police are getting enormous amounts of information on suspect activities, ” Jornot said. “There will be more arrests, more searches, more police operations.”

Suspicious Bags

Tensions are mounting in Geneva, a usually quiet city of 200,000 and the home of dozens of international organizations, after authorities announced the heightened alert level. A police robot detonated a suspicious bag in the Rive neighborhood on Thursday and access was restricted to some areas of the airport Friday because of two other suspicious bags.

Geneva, where the UN’s European headquarters is based, shares a 100-kilometer (62-mile) border with France, which bolstered security following the attacks in Paris. The canton will work more closely with French authorities to limit radicalization and avoid potential attacks on Swiss soil, Pierre Maudet, head of its cantonal government’s security and economy departments, said in an interview last month.

A total of 130 people died in Paris after three teams of men linked to the Islamic State blew themselves up outside a stadium, fired at restaurant and cafe goers, and shot members of the audience at the Bataclan concert hall on Nov. 13.

French police have used state-of-emergency measures put in place after the November attacks to round up people with suspected links to terrorist cells. The Geneva police said on Thursday they are working with their counterparts in France and the neighboring canton of Vaud.

The attorney-general’s office said late Thursday it opened a first criminal probe into a terrorist threat in Geneva in collaboration with authorities in the canton. The investigation is into unidentified persons on suspicion of supporting a criminal organization and association with the terrorist groups al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

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