Swiss stabbing suspect ‘linked to extremism inquiry’

Swiss stabbing suspect ‘linked to extremism inquiry’
Police vehicles outside a department store in Lugano, in the Canton of Ticino, where two women were attacked. (AP Photo)
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Updated 25 November 2020

Swiss stabbing suspect ‘linked to extremism inquiry’

Swiss stabbing suspect ‘linked to extremism inquiry’
  • A woman was arrested after allegedly trying to strangle one woman with her bare hands and stabbing another in the neck in a Lugano department store
  • Switzerland has never suffered a major extremist attack, but police and officials highlighted several recent incidents being investigated for possible terrorist motives

GENEVA: A woman arrested for a knife attack in a Swiss department store was linked to a 2017 extremism investigation and spent time in a psychiatric clinic, police said on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old was held on Tuesday after allegedly trying to strangle one woman with her bare hands and stabbing another in the neck.

The second victim in the attack, in Lugano in southern Switzerland, was said to be seriously wounded.

“The perpetrator is known to @FedpolCH,” the federal police said on Twitter. “She appeared in a police investigation in 2017 in connection with extremism.”

Police had discovered at the time that the woman had formed a relationship on social media with an extremist fighter in Syria.

She had attempted to travel to Syria to meet the man, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and was sent back to Switzerland.

“The woman was suffering from mental health problems,” police said, adding that she had been admitted to a psychiatric clinic.

She had not been on the radar of the federal police since then, the tweet said.

During Tuesday’s incident, the woman was overpowered by customers in the shop before officers arrived.

The regional police later mentioned a possible terror motive behind the attack.

“The situation is extremely serious,” said Norman Gobbi, head of the Ticino regional government.

The Swiss federal police said criminal proceedings were under way.

“This attack does not surprise me,” federal police chief Nicoletta della Valle said Tuesday, underlining that such attacks occurred all over the world.

Switzerland has never suffered a major extremist attack, but police and officials highlighted several recent incidents being investigated for possible terrorist motives.

And two Swiss nationals aged 18 and 24 were arrested near Zurich over alleged links to the perpetrator of a deadly attack in neighboring Austria’s capital Vienna earlier this month.

After Tuesday’s incident, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted that he condemned the “extremist terrorist attack” in Lugano.

“We stand with Switzerland in these difficult hours,” he wrote.

“We’ll give a joint response to extremist terrorism in Europe and defend our values.”

A Daesh sympathizer who had tried to join the extremist group in Syria was behind the attack in Vienna, in which four people were killed and several others injured.


Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (C) arrives with the government delegation during a visit in Herat province on January 21, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2021

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal
  • Violence has worsened since signing of peace accord, critics claim

KABUL: Officials in Kabul have welcomed the new US administration’s plan to review a peace deal between Washington and the Taliban that paved the way for a complete withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan by May.

President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Saturday told his Afghan counterpart, Hamdullah Mohib, that Washington will review last year’s agreement — an issue long demanded by Kabul — in a sign of a possible policy shift in the White House under its new leadership.

The accord, signed in Doha in February 2020, followed secret talks between the previous US government of Donald Trump and Taliban leaders. It committed the militants to reducing conflict in Afghanistan and engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government.

However, violence has intensified since the signing of the deal that also forced Kabul to release thousands of Taliban prisoners, souring President Ashraf Ghani’s ties with Washington. 
“We welcome the US intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement,” Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan deputy interior minister, said in a tweet following Sullivan’s conversation with Mohib.

“The agreement has not delivered the desired goal of ending the Taliban’s violence and bringing a cease-fire desired by Afghans. The Taliban did not live up to its commitments.”

Mohib’s spokesman, Rahmatullah Andar, told Arab News that Afghan security leaders had emphasized “a cease-fire, just peace, democratic Afghanistan and protecting the past 20 years of gain.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the arrival of US-led forces in 2001. 
Andar said that Afghanistan remained committed to its “foundational partnership with the US,” and will work closely with Washington on security, peace, counterterrorism and regional engagement.

Meanwhile, the Taliban say that they expect the new US administration to stick to the February deal.

“The demand of the Islamic Emirate from the new administration in America is full implementation of the Doha accord,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News. 
“The Doha agreement is the best prescription and only roadmap for ending the war in Afghanistan and for the withdrawal of US forces. The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement,” he said.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to cut ties with “terrorist groups” and halt attacks on US-led troops.

Trump administration officials claimed that there have been no strikes by the Taliban against US troops since the signing of the deal. 
Thousands of US soldiers have left since February, and only 2,500 remain in the country along with 30,000 foreign contractors. 
Afghan analysts are divided on the implications of the US administration’s announcement.

Tamim Asey, a former deputy defense minister, said the reassessment of the deal may lead to a slowing of the US withdrawal.

“I am now confident that the US will slow its troop drawdown until a policy review is complete,” he said.

Toreq Farhadi, a former government adviser, told Arab News there are likely to be only “minor changes in the reassessment” since the US wants to end the war.

However, Taj Mohammad, said that a review of the deal may lead to a “new wave of fighting.”

“The Taliban and some in the region oppose this because it could be seen as furthering the presence of US forces,” he said.