Plans to boost security in wake of Paris attacks

Austria’s Interior Ministry is preparing new measures to boost security after last week’s terror attacks in Paris.

Plans to boost security in wake of Paris attacks
File photo: APA

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told the national broadcaster ORF that a group of security experts are working “under pressure” to draft the new measures, which she hopes to announce at the end of this week.

The French cabinet has held a crisis meeting on security after 17 people were killed in Paris last week in attacks at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on a police officer, and at a kosher supermarket.

Mikl-Leitner said that Austria’s security forces will need heavily armoured vehicles and larger helicopters to enable a quick deployment of special forces, should Austria experience a similar situation.

She said that she had a clear commitment from Chancellor Werner Faymann that money would be available to bolster the security services. She couldn’t say how much the new measures would cost but said it would be somewhere in the three-digit million range.

She added that there needed to be “tighter controls” on the numbers of people returning to Austria after fighting with militants in Iraq and Syria. The interior ministry says that so far 170 people have left Austria to join jihadist fighters, and 60 of them have returned and are under observation by the security forces.

Mikl-Leitner confirmed that Austria is on “high alert” in the wake of the French attacks and that busy areas are being more heavily policed.

Austria's president and chancellor (centre) joined a solidarity rally in Vienna. Photo: APA/NEUBAUER

In a New Year’s address to the diplomatic corp in Vienna on Monday, Austrian President Heinz Fisher condemned the attacks in Paris “in the strongest terms”, and expressed solidarity with the victims. “Je suis Charlie”, he said.

He spoke against "fanaticism, fundamentalism, violence and even an exaggerated nationalism," but added that "religious groups and their leaders are trying to reset the divide and establish common ground".

Meanwhile, Austria's Jewish Community (IKG) has written an open letter to the government complaining that the Jewish victims of the Paris attacks were all but forgotten in a memorial rally in Vienna on Sunday. 

"Everyone is Charlie but no one is a Jew!", IKG president Oskar Deutsch said. Four Jews were killed in the attack on a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes on Friday.

"The Jewish community wonders why it seems so difficult to honour the Jewish people and to call them by name, so they will never be forgetten. They were Europeans, who were executed because of their religion," the statement from the IKG read. 


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.