Swiss intelligence services have observed an increase in the number of trips made out of Europe for jihadist purposes, with the internet playing a central role in radicalising young people confused by Western society.
Many unanswered questions remain, but the arrest in Kenya of a 19-year-old student from Biel has shaken the Swiss city in canton Bern and especially the Muslim community, which makes up almost ten per cent of the 50,000 inhabitants.
The student, known only as M.N., was charged with having joined a jihadist movement in Somalia.
“The whole community’s in shock,” said Khalid Ben Mohamed, an imam at the Errhamen mosque.
Described as friendly, reserved and studious by his classmates, M.N. has vehemently denied since his arrest any links to the Shabab, the Somalia-based cell of the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda.
M.N., who has Jordanian origins but who has lived since his childhood in Biel, disappeared suddenly in February 2011 and has yet to give a detailed explanation of his movements and motives.
But lacking proof, the Kenyan authorities have dropped the charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation. Nevertheless, the Swiss government considers him a security risk and has not allowed him to return to Switzerland until further notice.
“There is clear evidence that this person has spent time in regions of Somalia frequented by jihadist groups implicated in a conflict,” said the Swiss justice ministry, justifying its decision.