Suspect in Swiss knife attack had tried to travel to Syria

Swiss federal police say a woman suspected of carrying out a knife attack that injured two other women and is being investigated as possible terrorism had formed a relationship online with a jihadi in Syria, and had attempted to travel there

GENEVA -- Swiss federal police said Wednesday a woman suspected of carrying out a knife attack that injured two other women and is being investigated as possible terrorism had formed a relationship online with a jihadi in Syria, and had attempted to travel there.

The 28-year-old woman, a Swiss citizen, was arrested after Tuesday's attack in a department store in the southern city of Lugano. Police said the injuries weren't life-threatening.

Fedpol, as the police agency is known, said investigations in 2017 revealed that the woman had been blocked that year by Turkish authorities while trying to cross Turkey's border to enter Syria. She was then returned to Switzerland, a rich Alpine country that was all but untouched by bouts of extremist attacks in Europe and beyond in recent years.

“The woman was suffering from mental health problems at this time," fedpol tweeted. “After returning to Switzerland, she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic.”

“Since 2017, the woman has not come to fedpol's attention in any investigations related to terrorist activities,” it added.

Separately on Wednesday, the Swiss federal prosecutor's office said it had opened criminal proceedings against the woman, including on charges of attempted premeditated homicide, serious bodily harm and being in violation of a ban on extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. She was questioned for the first time after the attack.

Swiss media reports said the attacker was apprehended by two shoppers, before police intervened.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the “Islamist terrorist attack,” tweeting “We stand with #Switzerland in these difficult hours.”

Alluding to Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, Kurz added: “We’ll give a joint response to Islamist terrorism in #Europe & defend our values.”