‘Absolute scandal’: Austria told to reform security agencies after Vienna attack

Austria's domestic BVT intelligence agency requires reform without "any further delay," according to an independent report published Wednesday into security failures leading up to November's deadly jihadist attack in the capital Vienna.

'Absolute scandal': Austria told to reform security agencies after Vienna attack
A police officer at a memorial event in Vienna. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people before being shot dead by police in the city centre, the first major attack in Austria for decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

The commission set up by the government in the aftermath of the attack had already delivered an interim report in December outlining several missed chances to spot the danger posed by Fejzulai.

That report found that it took far too long for a threat assessment to be carried out after Fejzulai was released from prison in late 2019 and that warnings about Fejzulai's activities from neighbouring countries were not acted on by the BVT.

ANALYSIS: Vienna terror attack was 'only a matter of time' 

Wednesday's final report says the BVT's responsibilities and those of its partner agencies in Austria's federal regions must “be rethought and more clearly defined”.

“The much-heralded restructuring of the BVT should be carried out transparently and without any further delays,” the report says.

The 29-page report also highlights the need for more efficient information sharing between services.

The report authors also write that “there must be a lasting improvement in the working atmosphere within and between services” and that “mistrust” in the agencies had to be addressed. 

'Absolute scandal' 

Some of the deterioration in the atmosphere in the BVT can be traced back to raids on the agency ordered by the Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) in 2018, the report says.

As for deradicalisation of those convicted of terror-related offences, which came under the spotlight following the attack, the report says that such programmes should be “professionalised, given a legal framework and the necessary financial resources”.

However, the report casts doubt on the efficacy of the government's plan to create a new offence of “religiously motivated extremism”, calling it “superfluous”.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer welcomed the main findings of the report, telling journalists: “We must carry out reforms to build an efficient new structure, having learned from these mistakes.”

The report's authors said that some of their queries on whether certain terror-related warnings were passed to the upper echelons of the interior ministry “were not definitively answered”.

The opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) demanded “a complete and immediate clarification of what information the interior minister… had in the run-up to the attack”.

The SPOe maintained that the investigatory commission had “clearly been hindered in its work”, calling this “an absolute scandal which must have consequences”.

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‘Decomposing smell’: Austrian police called due to smelly shoes

Austria's police department said they were called to an apartment complex in Vienna after a person was concerned about a "smell of decomposition".

'Decomposing smell': Austrian police called due to smelly shoes

This week, the Viennese police department started a weekly ‘series’ of sharing interesting stories on their social media accounts

Calling the series ‘Misunderstanding Wednesday’ (Missverständnismittwoch), the very first post is about a call they received to an apartment complex after a concerned citizen complained to emergency services about a “smell of decomposition in the staircase”.

READ ALSO: Stephansdom: Vienna woken up after hacker sets church bells to ring at 2am

The alleged corpse, it turns out, was just the neighbour’s smelly shoes which were left in the building corridor, in front of their apartment.

The police didn’t say when exactly the incident took place.

“When our colleagues are called because of the ‘smell of decomposition in the staircase’… and notice that the stunk is from the neighbour’s shoes which were left in front of the apartment door”, the official Twitter account of the Vienna police department reads.

‘When in doubt it is an emergency’

The authorities were light-hearted about the misunderstanding, even sharing a “meme-like” picture on their social media accounts, saying “some missions turn out to be different than initially assumed”.

READ ALSO: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

However, they reiterated that the misunderstandings should not deter people from calling 133, the emergency police number. They added that in case of emergencies and even if you are not sure, the authorities should be called and they will assist you.

“Note: in case of doubt, it is an emergency”, the Vienna police department says. “Never be afraid to dial the emergency number.”