Austria carries out anti-terror raids as Macron pushes for European response to threat

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Justin Huggler
·4 min read
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This photo taken on November 9, 2020 in Graz, Austria, shows the Liga Kulturverein, where a police raid, dubbed Operation Luxor, took place in the early morning. - Austrian police launched raids on more than 60 addresses allegedly linked to radical Islamists in four different regions on November 9, with orders given for 30 suspects to be questioned, prosecutors said. The Styria region prosecutors' office said in a statement it was "carrying out investigations against more than 70 suspects and against several associations which are suspected of belonging to and supporting the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas organisations". (Photo by ERWIN SCHERIAU / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by ERWIN SCHERIAU/APA/AFP via Getty Images) - ERWIN SCHERIAU/AFP
This photo taken on November 9, 2020 in Graz, Austria, shows the Liga Kulturverein, where a police raid, dubbed Operation Luxor, took place in the early morning. - Austrian police launched raids on more than 60 addresses allegedly linked to radical Islamists in four different regions on November 9, with orders given for 30 suspects to be questioned, prosecutors said. The Styria region prosecutors' office said in a statement it was "carrying out investigations against more than 70 suspects and against several associations which are suspected of belonging to and supporting the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas organisations". (Photo by ERWIN SCHERIAU / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by ERWIN SCHERIAU/APA/AFP via Getty Images) - ERWIN SCHERIAU/AFP

Police in Austria carried out out extensive anti-terror raids on Monday, searching 60 properties suspected of links to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian group Hamas.

The raids came a week after four people were killed and 22 injured in an Islamic State terror attack in Vienna.

They also came as President Emmanuel Macron of France announced plans to host a video summit with the leaders of Austria, Germany and the EU on Tuesday on “the European response to the terrorist threat”.

Prosecutors stressed the early morning raids across three Austrian states on Monday were not linked to last week’s terror attack in Vienna.

They were the culmination of a year-long investigation by Austrian intelligence and were planned long before Kujtim Fejzulai opened fire on people enjoying a last night out before a new coronavirus lockdown, a spokesman said.

But they are likely to be seen as the response of Austrian authorities stung by criticism over their failure to identify Fejzulai, who had previously been jailed for seeking to join Isil, as a terror threat.

The high-profile raids targeted the homes, businesses and club premises of 70 people suspected of links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Thirty people were held for questioning and mobile phones, computers and documents were seized. Considerable assets “amounting to millions” were also seized, according Franz Ruf, the Austrian government’s head of public security,

“We are taking action against these criminal, extremist and inhuman organizations with the utmost severity and all possible means of the rule of law,” Karl Nehammer, the Austrian interior minister, said. “This is an important blow against the breeding ground of extremism.”

ISIS publishes video of perpetrator from Vienna attack Kujtim Fejzulai, with alias Abu Dujana al-Albani, pledging allegiance to leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi.
ISIS publishes video of perpetrator from Vienna attack Kujtim Fejzulai, with alias Abu Dujana al-Albani, pledging allegiance to leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi.

Mr Nehammer, who came under intense criticism over the intelligence failures in the lead-up to last week’s attack, took the unusual step of being personally present for some of the raids.

Austrian officials claimed the raids were the result of an undercover operation disclosed by Herbert Kickl, a far-Right former interior minister, last week.

Mr Kickl alleged Fajezulai’s attack had been prompted when the operation’s cover was blown — a charge Austrian authorities deny.

Austria had largely escaped the wave of jihadist terror attacks across Europe until last week, and the raids are a sign of concern there may be more extensive extremist networks in the country than previously thought.

Police believe Fejzulai carried out the attack alone but there are growing suspicions he had accomplices. Investigators have focused on how he travelled undetected from his home in the Vienna suburbs to the city centre armed with an assault rifle, handgun and machete, and believe he may have been given a lift.

Meanwhile President Macron of France signalled a new initiative to develop a European response to the terror threat with a video conference planned for Tuesday.

Mr Macron and Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, will hold video talks with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, the president of the European Council.

In the wake of last week’s attack Mr Kurz called for a new European anti-terror pact and Italy called for a US-style Patriot Act to enhance police powers and cross-border cooperation.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, called for Europe to take over the training of imams in order to prevent the spread of extremism.

"To fight the Ideology of hatred, we need to set up as soon as possible a European institute to train imams in Europe," he wrote on Twitter.