Geneva raises its guard against terror

An armed security officer at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. The complex was evacuated on Wednesday night as security personnel conducted office-to-office searches.
An armed security officer at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. The complex was evacuated on Wednesday night as security personnel conducted office-to-office searches.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Swiss federal police say people with possible 'links to terrorism' may be in the city

GENEVA • Geneva security officials have said that they had raised the alert level in the city and were looking for suspects in connection with investigations into last month's attacks in Paris.

"The authorities in Geneva yesterday received from (the federal authorities) information about suspicious individuals likely to be in Geneva or the Geneva area," said the statement from the canton's security department yesterday.

"The Geneva police, on the basis of this information, have increased their level of vigilance and reinforced the number of police agents on the ground.

"In the framework of investigations carried out following the Paris attacks, at the international and national level, Geneva police and their partners are actively looking for people whose description has been provided by the Swiss Confederation," the statement added.

However, the Swiss federal police said they had no information linking the suspects to the deadly attacks in Paris last month.

A Swiss federal police spokesman said that the authorities had informed the Geneva police about people with possible "links to terrorism", prompting the search.

There is no indication that the suspects are directly linked to the Paris attacks, Ms Cathy Maret, a spokesman for the Swiss federal police, said.

She declined to comment on the number of suspects being sought.

The Swiss canton of Geneva, where the United Nation's European headquarters is based, shares a 100km border with France and is about 550km from Paris.

Security guards at the UN offices were stationed with MP5 sub-machine guns at entry points for cars, a highly unusual departure from normal practice at the sprawling complex.

A security guard there said the Swiss authorities were searching for four people believed to be in the city or nearby.

Another guard said the UN compound was on maximum alert.

A UN source said the complex was evacuated on Wednesday night as security personnel conducted office-to-office searches.

"We have increased the number of police in the streets," Ms Emmanuelle Lo Verso, a spokesman for Geneva's Department of Security, said by phone.

"We went from a vague threat to a specific threat," she told Swiss Radio, adding that the search for the suspects was at "a very active phase".

Shooting and bomb attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed 130 people in Paris on Nov 13.

Three teams of men linked to ISIS blew themselves up outside a stadium, fired at restaurant and cafe goers, and shot members of the audience at the Bataclan concert hall.

Police in several European countries are still searching for individuals believed to have been involved in the Paris attacks or in their planning.

Swiss and French officials said they have been working closely together since the attacks.

The canton of Geneva will work more closely with the French authorities to limit radicalisation and avoid potential attacks on Swiss soil, Mr Pierre Maudet, head of the cantonal government's security and economy departments, said last month.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'Geneva raises its guard against terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe