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Switzerland: Potential Complacency in Travel Security

Switzerland is a country that has garnered a reputation for safety and tourist attractions. However, the country does face an underlying risk of terrorism, and travellers may easily underestimate the security threats faced while travelling in the country.

Historically, Switzerland has faced terrorism incidents as early as the 1970s. Such events have been sporadic and mainly focused on non-Swiss targets. For example, Armenian terror groups were largely responsible for attacking Turkish businesses and government officials in the 1970s and early 80s. Switzerland also suffered two indiscriminate attacks against civilians by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLPF). In these incidents, the PLPF attacked an Israeli and Swiss flag carrier in 1969 and 1970 respectively. The second of these incidents involved a devastating mid-flight bombing that killed all 47 people on board.

Counter-terrorism efforts by the Swiss government have been undermined by disagreements within the Swiss security establishment, and differing perceptions on the terror threat by Swiss businesses. In May 2017, Swiss defence minister Guy Parmelin stated that a terrorist attack in Switzerland was inevitable. However, the Federal Intelligence Services (FIS) later noted that an armed attack on Switzerland remained unlikely despite the elevated threat level.

While Switzerland continues to be held in high regard for safety and security, the potential for terrorist incidents to occur should not be underestimated. Mass-casualty attacks have been known to occur in countries that were previously thought to have a low risk of terrorism, such the 2011 summer camp shooting in Norway that killed 69 people. From 2016 to 2017, the European states of France, Sweden and Barcelona have also suffered from vehicle ramming attacks that have led to multiple deaths. Hence, visitors should not become complacent, and undertake precautionary measures to safeguard their well-being even when travelling to countries that are deemed to have a low security risk.

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