Zurich announces plans to tackle violent extremism

Thomas Würgler, head of canton Zurich police, explains the strategy next to Mario Fehr, head of security in the cantonal government. Keystone

Canton Zurich has outlined plans for countering radicalisation and violent extremism as part of a national strategy put forward by the government earlier this week. The three-pronged system will be coordinated by a new Intervention Centre that will be operational on March 1 next year.

This content was published on December 7, 2017 minutes

The focus of the strategy is to better monitor risks, improve dialogue with minority groups (bridge building) and educate youngsters at schools and sports clubs. Police will coordinate its efforts with cantonal and communal authorities, schools, youth organisations and social services.

In tune with plans laid out by Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga on Monday, Zurich aims to nip potential problems in the bud before they turn into serious issues. At a press conference in Zurich on Thursday, Thomas Würgler, head of canton Zurich police, said the programme put the region “on the right track to tackling radicalisation”.

He added that Zurich would also actively be engaging in “knowledge transfer” with other cantons as part of the national policy.

Winterthur, the second largest city in the canton, has witnessed problems with Islamic radicalisation in recent years. Several people were recruited to travel abroad on jihad missions while a mosque was closed down in the summer following the arrest of an alleged hate preacher.

Bridge building

Top of the agenda for the canton’s plan is to spot signs of radicalisation before they result in violence. This will involve closer cooperation with schools, youth and sports organisations and social services.

A ‘bridge building’ team has been set up to make contact with cultural associations and centres supporting asylum seekers. “We want to bring youth with migrant backgrounds together with police so they can express their concerns and fears,” said Claudia Brandenberg, who heads the team.

The third pillar of the cantonal strategy involves managing threats should they arise.

While Switzerland has so far avoided such acts of violent extremism as witnessed elsewhere in Europe, the authorities remain vigilant. The Swiss Intelligence Service says that it is tracking 550 people judged to pose a potential risk, up from 497 at the end of 2016. 

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