Swiss authorities lose trace of two jihadists in Syria

The prison assault and breakout happened in the city of Hasaka, in northern Syria. Keystone / Stringer

The Swiss foreign ministry says it has “no definite information” on the whereabouts of two terror suspects who had been detained in northern Syria.

This content was published on February 16, 2022 - 11:50

The two jihadists – originally from Geneva and Lausanne – have been missing since a rescue attack was launched in January by the Islamic State (IS) group on the jail in the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria where they had been held.

A third Swiss-originated fighter is seemingly still accounted for in detention, Swiss public broadcaster, SRF, reported on Wednesday.

The foreign ministry told SRF that they had some leads about where the missing pair might be, but that the intelligence was contradictory. As such, there is “no definite information” about their whereabouts, Consular Director Johannes Matyassy said.

Matyassy said authorities had taken all possible measures to ensure that the men do not return to Switzerland undetected. He did not specify what the measures were. SRF says it includes listing them on a wanted-list across the European Union's border-free Schengen area, to which Switzerland is affiliated.

No repatriations

In March 2019 the Swiss government decided on a strategyExternal link of not actively repatriating adult jihad fighters from Syria and Iraq, claiming motives of national security.

Authorities said the strategy was to prioritise legal proceedings in the countries where the jihadists had committed their crimes. Children can be repatriated in certain cases, such as the two half-sisters brought back to Geneva last year after having been taken by their mother to Syria in 2016.

Dual nationals who leave to fight for IS can meanwhile be stripped of their Swiss citizenship.

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