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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Suspect in Swiss knife attack had tried to travel to Syria

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Police in Switzerland say a woman suspected of carrying out a knife attack that is being investigated as possible terrorism formed an online relationship with a jihadi in Syria and had attempted to travel there.

The 28-year-old woman, a Swiss citizen, was arrested after an attack in a department store in the southern city of Lugano that injured two other women. Police said the injuries were not life-threatening.

Fedpol, as the police agency is known, said investigations in 2017 revealed that the woman had been blocked that year by Turkish authorities while trying to cross Turkey’s border to enter Syria. She was then returned to Switzerland.

Fedpol tweeted: “The woman was suffering from mental health problems at this time. After returning to Switzerland, she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic.

“Since 2017, the woman has not come to Fedpol’s attention in any investigations related to terrorist activities.”

Separately, the Swiss federal prosecutor’s office said it had opened criminal proceedings against the woman, including on charges of attempted premeditated homicide, serious bodily harm and being in violation of a ban on extremist groups such as al Qaida and the so-called Islamic State group. She was questioned for the first time after the attack.

Swiss media reports said the attacker was apprehended by two shoppers, before police intervened.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the “Islamist terrorist attack”, tweeting: “We stand with #Switzerland in these difficult hours.”

Alluding to Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, Mr Kurz added: “We’ll give a joint response to Islamist terrorism in #Europe & defend our values.”

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