According to Swiss police reports, Al-Qaida has threatened to launch attacks on the European football championships due to be held in Austria and Switzerland in June, leading to heightened vigilance by security forces.
Traffic on several websites frequently used by Al-Qaida has shot up in recent weeks, with an increasing number of forums appealing to dormant terrorist cells to launch attacks against this summer’s football championships, the reports note.
Although there have been no concrete threats against the two host countries, alarmist rhetoric on some extremist websites has increased awareness of potential terrorist threats.
“We are on alert and are following these jihad forums very closely,” said a Swiss security official in an interview with Swiss daily La Liberté. “The situation is serious [and] we are taking these threats very seriously,” he added.
Despite the fact that Austria and Switzerland have a relatively low profile when it comes to foreign affairs, both countries have reason to be targeted, according to La Liberté. Several Swiss cities have recently opposed the construction of mosques and Austria is part of the NATO force in Afghanistan.
Major sports competitions provide regular opportunities for terrorist organisations to threaten attacks, with football championships in France in 1998, Portugal in 2004 and Germany in 2006 experiencing terrorist threats – none of which were realised.
In line with this, Swiss Federal Police spokesman Guido Balmer believes Euro 2008 is an obvious target. But he sees the internet fora as “public conversations”, describing their content as “more like fantasies by people trying to impress”.