Swiss authorities detained two Syrian men in Geneva on Friday. They are accused of manufacturing and transporting explosives, which were found in their car during a traffic stop on a road leading into the city. Police are also looking into any possible ties with Islamic terror.
Earlier reports that the men were also carrying toxic gas were false, the Telegraph reported.
The arrests came just a day after Geneva was placed on a heightened terror alert — a three on a five-point scale. Authorities remain on the lookout for four suspected ISIS members whose pictures were provided by the CIA, along with a report that they may be in Switzerland.
Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot said the two men have not been definitively linked to ISIS or al-Qaeda, nor the four suspects pinpointed by the CIA. They are, however, under investigation for violating a Swiss law banning such extremist factions, according to Al Jazeera.
The suspects had only recently arrived in Geneva and claimed to have only recently acquired the car. They could not speak French, the most-spoken language in Geneva which is located right along the border with France. Geneva also houses the European headquarters of the United Nations.
Tensions in Geneva have been much higher than usual since the November 13 terror attack on Paris, which left 130 dead. Another car eluded authorities the day before the arrest of the two Syrians. This car escaped over the French border, according to Reuters. One of the occupants is a suspected associate of Salah Abdeslam, a terrorist who remains at large and is suspected to have been a driver in the Paris attack.
Switzerland is in the midst of carrying out a thorough anti-terrorism dragnet. In addition to Thursday’s escalation of the terror alert and Friday’s arrest, Bloomberg reports suspicious bags were found at the Geneva airport and another suspicious bag was detonated in the neighborhood of Rive.
Authorities in Switzerland also made an arrest of a suspected neo-Nazi terrorist. Bloomberg reports that authorities found an “AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, muskets, a pump shotgun, hatchets and other weapons,” as well as Third Reich regalia and flags, in the man’s home.
Jornot says there will be more arrests to come as Swiss authorities are tipped off to more suspects and increase their vigilance.
“Police are getting enormous amounts of information on suspect activities,” Jornot said. “There will be more arrests, more searches, more police operations.”
According to Reuters, the suspects arrested outside Geneva on Friday were subject to increased scrutiny because of their behavior and nationality. The discovery of explosives in the Syrians’ car comes at a time when much of the world is divided on what should be done about Syrian refugees.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump caused a stir when he proposed banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., including U.S. citizens living abroad. His remarks have sharply divided Americans, including those within his own party, while President Obama remains committed to accepting a certain number of refugees. Other leaders, like Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Germany’s Angela Merkel, have also been welcoming refugees with open arms.
Distrust of refugees may be further exacerbated by the emergence of rumors that ISIS may be using blank passports and passport-printing machinery to gain entry to other countries.
According to authorities, the Syrian suspects carried legitimate passports. Their names have not been released. Jornot says it’s possible the explosives in the car had no link to the men driving and that the suspects maintain they had no criminal intent. Nonetheless, they will be handed over from the local Geneva police who arrested them to Swiss federal police as the investigation continues.
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