Austria Closes Two Terror-Linked Mosques After Deadly Attack
The ISIS-returnee was released early from prison under Austria’s Islamic ‘de-radicalization’ program.
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Austrian government has ordered the closure two mosques after the jihad terror attack that killed four people in the capital Vienna this week. “Following the terror attack, the legal status of two radical mosques has been revokes. An association linked to them has been disbanded,” the Austrian daily Die Wiener Zeitung reported on Friday.
The 20-year-old jihadi, described by the Austrian authorities as an “Islamist terrorist,” on Monday night killed four people and wound 23 others in a shooting spree outside city’s main synagogue and other locations. The terrorist had returned after serving the Islamic State as a fighter in Syria, and was reportedly released early as part of a ‘de-radicalization’ program. The attacker was shot dead by the police at the scene.
He is known to have frequented a mosque in Vienna’s Ottakring district. The “preacher” of the mosque “led a German-speaking brigade to Syria before being killed in a drone strike,” BBC reported. Another mosque he visited belongs to Austria’s leading Muslim body, the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria (IGGÖ). The organization, which acts as a umbrella organisation for hundreds of mosques and Muslim associations across the country, in past has been accused of being under the influence of the Turkish government.
Wien-based Der Standard newspaper reported the closure of the mosques:
Minister of Education Susanne Raab und Interior Minister Karl Nehammer have announced the closure of a mosque and a mosque association after the Islamist terror attack in Vienna. This was ordered after a emergency meeting with the president of the Islamic Community, Ümit Vural, reports on Friday afternoon said. This pertains to the revocation of the legal status and the disbanding of the association. (…)
The attackers [who struck in] Vienna mainly frequented two houses of worship: one of them was overseen by the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria (IGGÖ). Tewhid mosques in Meidling has been closed under the provision of the [country’s] Islam Law. Another facility, the Melit-Ibrahim mosque association in Hasnerstraße, Wien-Ottakring, independent of the IGGÖ, was dissolved in the basis of the law related to associations. The immediate closure in done in the interest of public security, as the provision of “positive outlook towards the society and the state” required under the Islam Law does not exist, Raab explained. (…)
The opposition welcomed the closure of the mosque, but slammed the government for taking the step too late. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had announced the closure two years ago. Christian Deutsch, member of parliament for Austria’s Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) saw this as a “government’s admission of failure, that nothing was done in last two years to prevent the radicalization in the extremist mosque.” The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) was not satisfied be the mere closures. [According to the party,] half of the mosques in the city of Graz are of Islamist orientation and the “toothless Islam Law” stood in the way of decisive action. [Translated by the author]
Austrian police intitially arrested 14 suspects considered to be in the ‘close circle’ of the slan jihadi, German broadcaster ARD confirmed. The terrorist could be part of a wider Islamic terrorist network active in neoghbouring countries, mainly Germany and Switzerland, Austria’s interior minister indicated. German police raided several locations in connection with the Vienna attack.
The FBI, too, provided “valuable information” on the slain terrorist’s network, official Austrian sources said. “We have had intensive cooperation with the FBI,” Austria’s Interior Minister Nehammer admitted following the attack.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Friday reported the counter-terrorism raids in Germany and Switzerland:
Germany’s federal BKA investigations bureau said police searches were conducted Friday in the northern cities of Osnabruck, Kassel and Pinneberg county near Hamburg — in homes and business premises.
“There is no initial suspicion that the four people affected by today’s measures took part in the [Vienna] attack,” said the BKA, based in Wiesbaden, “but there are believed to have been links with the suspected attacker.” (…)
On Thursday, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the attacker seems to have been linked to a radical Islamist network that extended to Switzerland and another country.
Nehammer did not name the second country, but German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday said there was a connection to Germany.
“It is now a key task for German security agencies to evaluate and check these contacts,” said Seehofer.
In addition, Swiss federal police said Thursday two acquaintances of the attacker had been detained near Zurich, reportedly aged 18 and 24.
Closing merely two mosques will hardly mitigate the growing threat posed to Austria by the Islamic terrorism. The right-wing party, FPÖ, demanded similar action against jihad-preaching mosques elsewhere in the country. Half of the mosques in Graz, Austria’s second-largest city, were Islamist in orientation, party’s security spokesman, Hannes Amesbauer, said.
Monday’s terror attack also highlights the threat posed by the Islamic State-returnees to Europe. Out of 331 jihadists who left Austria to joined the Islamic State, 72 are known to have returned back. Most of these battle-hardened terrorists are out on the Austrian streets. Only 12 of them were servng proson time, Austrian daily Kurier reported in April 2020.
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