World News

French arrest nine, Swiss one in joint anti-terrorism swoop

PARIS (Reuters) - French police arrested nine people and another was arrested in Switzerland in coordinated counter-terrorism swoops that follow a spate of deadly attacks in Europe in recent years.

Swiss officials said a 23-year-old Colombian woman was taken into custody after police raids there. A Swiss man aged 27 was among those arrested in parallel French police swoops linked to Islamist militant activity, they added.

French police conducted simultaneous raids on premises on the eastern edge of Paris and in the southeastern region that borders Italy and Switzerland, taking nine people into custody, a source in the French judiciary said.

Those arrested were aged from 18 to 65 years, said the French source, who spoke on condition of anonymity -- standard practice for most French officials on such matters.

Le Parisien newspaper said it was possible the raids had thwarted an attack.

The French judicial source spoke of suspected participation in a criminal terrorist network and of communications via the Telegram network that many militants use because messages can be encrypted.

A Swiss statement cited suspected involvement in terrorist activity and banned Islamist militant groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The arrests took place a week after France introduced tougher national security laws to permanently replace emergency powers given to police and intelligence services following deadly attacks by Islamist militants on Paris two years ago.

More than 240 people have been killed in France since early 2015 in attacks by Islamist militants or assailants inspired by the Islamic State group, which has sought to establish a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and called for attacks on France.

France is among countries contributing to military operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who says 32 attack plots have been thwarted in the past two years in France, played down the latest operation when asked about it during a visit to Berlin.

“It’s part of operations which, sadly, are conducted relatively regularly, where we arrest a number of people we consider dangerous,” he said.

Reporting by Matthias Galante in Nice, and Sophie Louet and Simon Carraud in Paris, and John Miller in Zurich; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Richard Lough and Luke Baker