BELLINZONA (AFP): A Swiss woman faces trial Monday accused of having tried to slit the throats of two women in a department store in the name of the Daesh jihadist group.
The 29-year-old is accused of having committed a “terrorist act” in the attack in the plush Manor store in Lugano in southern Switzerland’s Ticino region on November 24, 2020.
One of the two victims suffered a serious neck injury. The second sustained wounds on one hand and managed, with others, to control the assailant until the police arrived.
The trial takes place at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona in Ticino.
According to the indictment issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG), the accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, “acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness.”
“She brutally attacked her randomly-selected victims with a knife, with the aim of killing them and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of Daesh, triggering widespread reports in the media and thus propagating Daesh ideology,” according to the OAG.
The woman was known to the police.
After “falling in love” over social media in 2017 with a jihadist fighter in Syria, she had attempted to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, it is alleged.
Police said at the time that she was then admitted to a psychiatric clinic.
The suspect is primarily charged with attempted murder and violation of laws against association with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and related Islamist groups.
She is also charged with unlawful prostitution between 2017 and 2020.
The OAG stressed that the presumption of innocence applies until a legally binding judgment has been issued.
The verdict is due on September 19.
The defense is expected to rely on the woman’s mental state to refute the alleged terrorist motive.
The alleged assailant had converted to Islam, according to the 24 Heures newspaper.
Switzerland has never experienced a large-scale jihadist attack, but two knife attacks took place in 2020.
A few weeks before the Lugano incident, a young Turkish-Swiss national, who had sought to travel to Syria in 2019, fatally stabbed a passer-by in a street in Morges in western Switzerland.
According to the Federal Intelligence Service, the terror threat level is still considered high in Switzerland.
“We find that the individuals who take action are radicalized people who grew up in Switzerland without ever having been to a conflict zone,” the federal police told AFP.
“They are becoming radicalized on the Internet, mostly in chats and closed forums, but also in groups and associations. This is what is called ‘homegrown’ terrorism,” it said.
According to the police, stabbings are not a new modus operandi, but their incidence has increased in recent times.
“The attacks of November 2020 in Lugano and September 2020 in Morges are proof of this, as are those abroad: for example, the attack on Salman Rushdie. This is what we call ‘low cost’ terrorism, implying little preparation and few resources.”
According to Christina Schori Liang, an expert on terrorism at the Geneva Center for Security Policy international foundation, this methodology “does not necessarily require large attacks, just enough to instill fear and terrorize the public.”