Switzerland could become a hotbed of Islamist militants grown up in the country, according to a senior security expert.
Jean-Paul Rouiller of the Geneva Centre for Security Policyexternal link told the Tribune de Genève newspaper he is convinced that Switzerland will play a more important role than in the past, when the country was considered merely a place of transit for terrorists in Europe.
He says a growing number of jihadists born in Switzerland are to be found around in the Lake Geneva region, in the city of Zurich and in Biel/Bienne, a bilingual town north of the capital Bern.
Rouiller adds that key jihadi figures in Switzerland have links with likeminded people abroad.
He estimates that the number of Swiss jihadists travelling to conflict regions, notably in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, between 2001 and February this year are at about 100, while the Federal Intelligence Service put the figure at 88.
Rouiller believes a total of up to 1,000 people in Switzerland could be involved in supporting Islamic militants.
Last week, police arrested four terrorist suspects in raids in the Lake Geneva region. However, the spokesman of the Office of the Attorney Generalexternal link said the two raids were not linked.
“It’s a pure coincidence that four people were detained in succession,” André Marty told the Le Temps newspaper. “It would be exaggeration to speak of the dismantling of a terrorist network in French-speaking Switzerland,” he is quoted as saying.
A syndicated report by Wednesday’s editions of the Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund newspapers say that most of the 72 jihadists surveyed over the past two years were radicalised by charismatic leaders in Switzerland, but not primarily through online contacts over the Internet.
The government last week announced plans to boost efforts at combatting the recruitment and training of terrorists, including so called jihadi tourism, and bring legislation in line with other European countries.