Side by side, the environmentalist Austrian president Alexander van der Bellen and the conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz participated, Tuesday, November 3, in a minute of silence in memory of the four people killed the previous evening during a terrorist attack in the heart of peaceful Vienna. 22 other people were injured.
It was almost 8 p.m. on Monday when a man, apparently alone, shot at passers-by near the headquarters of the Jewish community in Austria. Many Viennese then took advantage of the last hours outside on the terrace, before the start of confinement.
→ ANALYSIS. Europe challenged by terrorism
Killed by the police, the assailant, aged 20, was armed with an assault rifle, a pistol, a machete and a false explosive belt. Shortly before the assault, this man, with dual Austrian and Macedonian nationality, posted a video on Facebook in which he claimed his membership in Daesh.
Sentenced for trying to join ISIS in Syria
He was no stranger. In the past, he had already been sentenced to 22 months in prison for trying to join this terrorist organization in Syria. He was released early in December 2019 to participate in a de-radicalization program. The terrorist has “Treacherously deceived” the justice services, said Tuesday, November 2 Austrian Minister of the Interior, Karl Nehammer, who calls for a reassessment of this program.
At least 14 people were taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon. Pending possible additional information, the maximum level of security has been maintained in the Austrian capital, and border controls have been tightened. Jewish institutions remained closed – it was still not known Tuesday afternoon whether they had been targeted as such by the terrorist.
“Our enemies are not of a particular religion, nor of a particular country. Our enemies are terrorists and extremists, ” Sebastian Kurz said. “We are not going to fall into their trap and divide our society”, he stressed.
In Vienna, a “relatively well-developed Islamist scene”
The first attack of this scale in Austria since 1981, this attack seems to have been carried out “In an emergency, before the implementation of containment”, according to Reinhard C. Heinisch, of the University of Salzburg.
Why has Austria, which is not part of the international coalition against Daesh, been targeted? Nicolas Stockhammer, from the University of Vienna, sees it as a “European dimension”, in the wake of the Paris and Nice attacks. “Vienna is not that island of calm that many like to see”, adds this expert in terrorism to the news agency APA. It recalls the existence “A relatively well-developed Islamist scene” and 320 jihadists who left to fight in Syria and Iraq, which, in relation to its overall population, places Austria fourth in Europe in this area.
Foreign intelligence services had recently warned Vienna of possible risks of attacks, says Nicolas Stockhammer. In their last report published in 2019, the Austrian intelligence services described the “Islamist terrorism” from “Main threat to the security of the country”, and observed a “Growing radicalization”, in connection with the return of jihadists who fought in Syria and Iraq. Last week, a tension had been noted. About fifty young people stormed a church in Vienna, shouting «Allahu Akbar». A few hours after the Nice attack.