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TERRORISM

Austria considers ankle tags for jihadists returning from Syria

Austria's defence minister suggested on Tuesday that suspected jihadists returning from the Syrian war should wear electronic tags under a planned package of new "anti-terror" measures.

Austria considers ankle tags for jihadists returning from Syria

“There are several possibilities on the table… Electronic ankle tags for people posing a potential threat are definitely something to be considered,” Hans Peter Doskozil told Austrian radio.

“I definitely think that it would be appropriate that… they are monitored, that the authorities know what they are doing, whom they are meeting. It's very important,” he said.

Austria's centrist government has been preparing a raft of measures to beef up security and reduce illegal immigration, including tighter border controls and more video surveillance.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told reporters before a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the use of electronic tags, which he also supports, would require new legislation.

Around 300 people have either left or were intercepted trying to leave Austria to fight in Syria, according to the interior ministry. Around 40 have died there while some 90 have come back.

On Friday, Austrian police detained a 17-year-old they suspected of being an Islamic extremist in Vienna. The authorities believe he may have been planning a bomb attack in the capital.

This was followed on Saturday by the arrest of a 21-year-old man in the western German city of Neuss.

Media reports said that he and the Austrian, identified in reports as Lorenz K., had experimented together with making explosives in Germany.

Sobotka said on Monday that Lorenz K., an Austrian citizen who was born and raised in Austria, had told investigators that he supported the extremist Islamic State group.

On Tuesday, he said the suspect admitted to having built an experimental bomb. But no bomb-making equipment was found at his flat, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Austrian police have raided other addresses, and on Monday public security chief Konrad Kogler said that a minor — reportedly a 12-year-old boy — had been questioned in connection with the enquiry.

Austria has so far been spared the string of attacks by Islamist extremists in other European countries in recent years.

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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