Swiss police searching Geneva for suspected jihadists
Police in Geneva raised the alert level and searched the city on Thursday for several suspected jihadists believed to have links to the Islamic State (IS) group, security sources said.
The security services in the Canton of Geneva said they received information on Wednesday from Swiss federal authorities about suspicious individuals in the Geneva area.
The Tribune de Geneve, in an unconfirmed report, said the intelligence originally came from the United States.
"We went from a vague threat to a specific threat," Geneva security spokeswoman Emmanuelle Lo Verso said, adding that police were "actively searching" for the suspects.
The searches, though apparently not linked to last month's attacks in Paris, came amid widening efforts across Europe to hunt possible IS supporters.
In Brussels on Thursday, European Union lawmakers backed plans to track airline passenger names as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of the Paris violence, some of whose perpetrators travelled freely across Europe before the carnage.
And in Britain, which applauded the passenger tracking plan, new Home Office data showed that the number of terror suspects apprehended has reached a record high, with 315-terror-related arrests in the year to September -- an increase of a third over the preceding 12 months.
- UN HQ searched -
In Geneva, which is almost entirely enclosed by France, authorities said that the search for possible extremists was being conducted "in the context of the investigation following the Paris attacks".
But multiple sources who requested anonymity said there did not appear to be a direct link with the coordinated November 13 strikes in the French capital.
A security source at the United Nations in Geneva told AFP that four people were being sought over possible ties to IS, which claimed the Paris atrocities and has vowed further strikes.
The UN source said the Palais des Nations -- the UN's European headquarters -- was evacuated on Wednesday night as security personnel conducted office-to-office searches.
Security guards posted at the UN gates were also carrying sub-machine guns on Thursday, a departure from normal practice.
Geneva's government said police had "increased their level of vigilance" with reinforcements sent to key locations including the airports and the headquarters of the many international organisations based in the Swiss city.
But there did not appear to be a massive mobilisation of security personnel across the city, according to AFP journalists.
In a separate statement, Geneva authorities said prosecutors had opened a preliminary investigation into "preparatory criminal acts" based on information shared by police.
No suspects were named.
- Searches in France -
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.
Meanwhile, in France, a man was detained Thursday after weapons were discovered in his home in a continuation of the rolling searches seen since a state of emergency was imposed after the bloodshed in Paris.
Officials in the Drome region said the suspect was found during a traffic stop in possession of a picture of Salah Abdeslam, the key Paris suspect who remains at-large.
The individual was reportedly known to police in the area over previous incidents of low-level criminality.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, which is often known for its tranquility, local media were giving rapid updates of the search, with the country having been spared the extremist-related incidents that have hit elsewhere in the continent.
Switzerland said last month that it had active criminal proceedings against 33 individuals over suspected ties to extremist Islamist groups, but only three people were in custody.
The most serious case involves a cell of possible Islamist radicals uncovered in the Canton of Schaffhausen, near the German border, last year.
© 2015 AFP