SHARE
COPY LINK

TERRORISM

Police arrest 13 in raids on jihad recruiters

Update: Austrian police arrested 13 people and raided homes, prayer rooms and mosques around the country early Friday in a mass operation targeting suspected jihad recruiters, prosecutors said.

Police arrest 13 in raids on jihad recruiters
Photo: APA

Some 900 police were involved in the raids, which took place in Vienna, Graz and Linz. They follow a two-year investigation into several people suspected of recruiting young people to fight in Syria.

Media reports said a Vienna-based Bosnian-Serb preacher, who was the main suspect, was among those arrested in the raids which began at 4:00am.

See our special feature Profile of a Jihadist

Police also seized "terrorist propaganda," files, a set of brass-knuckles and sums of money in various homes, said prosecutors in Graz, who were coordinating the operation.

Beyond recruiting fighters, the Kronen Zeitung newspaper said that the suspects were investigated for helping to finance the Islamic State group.

Some 150 people have so far left Austria to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq, or have been stopped while trying to do so, according to the interior ministry.

One case which got a lot of publicity in Austria was that of two teenage girls who left for Syria in April, telling their parents that they wanted to "fight for Islam" there.

Vienna 'hub of global jihad'

Vienna is considered by counter-terrorism experts such as John R. Schindler to be a hub of global jihad.  In August, nine Chechens who were planning to wage jihad with Isis in Syria were arrested by Austrian police, and are awaiting trial. 

Austria's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung) warned in June over the threats faced by the country, saying:

"Religiously motivated extremism and terrorism – above all of Islamic character – as well as Salafi-jihadi groups continue to present a great potential threat…The number of young radicalized followers of violent Salafism continues to rise."

"In this context, the conflict in Syria is of urgent relevance for Austria, since systematic efforts are being made within [Austria] to radicalize and recruit people for the war in Syria…The conflict in Syria has become very popular among violent extremist Salafis."

"The spectrum of recruits to the conflict in Syria is broadly ethnically diverse. The motivation, however, seems to be uniformly jihadi."

Possible Bosnian Connection?

Benjamin Weinthal, European affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post, identified at least three separate jihadist movements operating in Austria.  One of those has strong links to Bosnia, and is allegedly funded by Iranian officials.

The raids may be linked to police raids across Bosnia-Herzegovina on November 13 as part of Operation Damascus, in which Bosnian authorities arrested eleven Islamist radicals suspected of supporting jihad and terrorism in Syria and Iraq.

The arrests in Bosnia were made because the Salafi-backed Islamist group was allegedly actively recruiting jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq, were gathering weapons and explosives, and were financing further terrorist operations.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CRIME

Case dropped against second Swiss man over Vienna attack ‘links’

Swiss prosecutors said Thursday they had dropped the case against a second Swiss man over alleged links to a deadly shooting rampage in Vienna due to a lack of evidence.

Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which last month decided to drop the case against one suspect, told AFP it had issued a discontinuation order in the case against a second man.

On November 2, 2020, convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people in Vienna before being shot dead by police.

It was the first major attack in Austria in decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

Two Swiss citizens who knew Fejzulai were arrested in the northeastern Swiss town of Winterthur just a day after the attack on suspicion they may have helped in its preparation.

‘How was it possible?’ Austrians left asking painful questions after Vienna terror shootings

The two, who were aged 18 and 24 at the time, were known to the police and were the targets of prior criminal cases over terror-linked offences.

The OAG acknowledged Thursday that no evidence had emerged that either man had participated in any way or had prior knowledge of the attack.

The older of the two men was meanwhile hit with a penalty in a separate case with no links to the Vienna file, the OAG said.

The penalty order, seen by Swiss media, indicated that he had been found guilty of violating Switzerland’s law banning Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and related organisations and of being in possession of “depictions of violence”.

According to the ATS news agency, an IS group video was found on his phone depicting people being executed and decapitated.

He was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence, a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,100, 950 euros), and three years’ probation, ATS said.

ANALYSIS: Vienna terror attack was ‘only a matter of time’

In light of this penalty, he would not be compensated for the 176 days he spent behind bars after his arrest following the Vienna attack, it added.

The OAG said a separate case was still pending against the younger of the two men, also on suspicion he breached the Swiss law banning Al-Qaeda, IS and related organisations, and over “allegations of depictions of violence”. “The presumption of innocence applies,” it stressed.

SHOW COMMENTS