Eyeing terror threat, Swiss mull limits on sale of chemicals

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GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland’s executive branch wants to make it harder for the public to obtain certain chemicals like fertilizer, pool-cleaning products or solvents that could be used in attacks by extremists.

The proposal Wednesday from the seven-member Federal Council would require authorization from the federal police for purchases of about 100 products it terms “explosives precursors” and which are sold in pharmacies, hardware stores and specialized shops. Farmers and some other sectors would get an exception.

Parliament is set to debate the proposal starting next spring.

The council noted the sale of products like hydrogen peroxide or nitrates has been limited in the European Union since 2014. Switzerland is not in the bloc but borders four member states.

In a statement, the government said it was “aware of the risk” that some chemicals sold in Switzerland could be used by terrorists.

The Swiss Federal Police has already put vendors on alert about such sales since 2016 and has tallied 57 “suspicious” transactions since September that year.

Fedpol spokeswoman Anne-Florence Debois acknowledged that Switzerland was “not an island” in Europe, and said the council was aware that the Alpine country could become a sort of “supermarket of terrorists” if action isn’t taken to restrict the sale of such chemicals.

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