Swiss parliament in Bern evacuated over explosives threat
Police in Switzerland have confirmed that they have arrested the man who caused a five-hour lockdown and evacuation of parliament in Bern on February 14. The suspect is alleged to have been carrying explosives.
Man arrested with traces of explosives outside Swiss parliament
Speaking to reporters, the emergency services announced that they had arrested a 27-year-old man from Canton Valais outside the Federal Palace in Bern on February 14. Police stopped the man because of his suspicious behaviour, having been seen wearing a protective vest and gun holster.
A rapid test of the suspect found traces of explosives, police announced, although they refused to confirm where the explosives were found. The man was also identified as the driver of a vehicle that was parked right outside the parliament building, leading to a full evacuation of the surrounding area.
Parliament Square in Bern evacuated after explosives threat
“Based on the knowledge already available at that time, it could not be ruled out that there were explosives in the car on Bundesplatz [Parliament Square] and that the vehicle posed a specific risk, As a result, extensive security measures were implemented immediately,” police told Swissinfo.
As part of the evacuation, Parliament Square and all surrounding streets were sealed off by police, and all nearby buildings, including the Swiss National Bank, the Federal Palace, the parliament and some departments of government were evacuated. Once everyone was evacuated, police sent in a robot which confirmed that the car was not a threat. The all-clear was given at 7pm, five hours after the first call was made.
Politicians call for evacuation system to be reviewed
Even though no one was hurt, many in parliament are calling for the evacuation system to be reviewed, with state councillor Andrea Caroni noting that the process led to an “ideal situation for an attack.” “I must admit I didn’t understand the evacuation system, nor did all my colleagues…the doors only let us out individually, so very slowly, and when everyone was out, we all gathered on the square without any protection. Bizzare,” he told Swissinfo.
The man who was arrested by police is now in custody, where analyses of his mental and physical condition are underway. While police did not allude to any motive for the attack, a criminal investigation has now been launched by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General, together with police in Bern, Valais and the Swiss Federal Police.
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