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TERRORISM

Moroccan terror suspect extradited to Austria

A Moroccan man arrested in Brussels in July is being held in Austria, suspected of having links to the jihadist cell responsible for the Paris attacks last November, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor told AFP on Monday.

Moroccan terror suspect extradited to Austria
Photo: Facebook page of the suspect

The suspect, Abid Tabaouni, was detained under a European arrest warrant from Austria after he had fled from Salzburg and was handed back to Austrian authorities last month.

The Belgian prosecutor's spokesman Thierry Werts, said that the handover was done quickly as “we confirmed that he did not have any ties to our country nor it appears to any of our cases.”

The Salzburg prosecutor's spokesman Robert Holzleitner also confirmed to AFP that Tabaouni has been held in Austria since August 25 and is suspected of belonging to a terrorist organisation.

Tabaouni is believed to have ties to the two alleged members of the Islamic State (IS) group, Algerian Adel Haddadi and  Pakistani Mohamad Usman, who were arrested in Austria last December and handed over to French authorities in July as part of the investigation into the Paris attacks.

Investigators believe Haddadi and Usman, who face terror charges in France, travelled to the Greek island of Leros on October 3 on the same boat full of refugees as two men who took part in the November 13 attacks in France that left 130 people dead.

But Haddadi and Usman were detained by Greek authorities for 25 days because they had fake Syrian passports. Once released, they followed the main migrant trail and made it to Salzburg in western Austria at the end of November — after the Paris attacks.

Austrian police then arrested the two in December at a migrant centre a few hours after French authorities informed them the men could be in the country.

After his arrest, Haddadi told investigators that he had wanted to go to France to “carry out a mission,” according to a statement seen by AFP.

A source close to the investigation said that Haddadi “was meant to take part in the Paris killings with his travelling companions.”

US channel CNN reported, citing investigation documents, that Tabaouni was allegedly linked to the four men who had traveled as supposed refugees through Leros and that he also was probably meant to take part in an attack.

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.

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