A Chechen group around an IS sympathizer who is already in Hirtenberg is said to have planned attacks in Vienna, Salzburg, Germany, France and Luxembourg between Christmas and New Year.
Three native Chechens are said to have planned a whole series of attacks in Vienna and other cities between Christmas and New Year. The driving force behind the terrorist attack allegedly planned in Vienna was probably a 24-year-old Chechen who was most recently housed in the Hirtenberg prison.
He is said to have planned his outbreak from prison and then to a series of the terror attacks. According to the investigation, which has not been confirmed by the authorities, an explosive attack was initially planned in downtown Vienna, specifically on the Christmas market on Stephansplatz. Then attacks in Salzburg, Germany, France and Luxembourg should have followed. Two suspected accomplices, Chechens aged 25 and 31, were detained last week (as reported).
The law enforcement authorities are said to have tracked down the three men, an anonymous whistle-blower, who is said to have warned above all of the inmate who was imprisoned in Hirtenberg, since he was still attached to the IS ideology after his conviction. Extensive investigations, telephone surveillance and observations confirmed the suspicion that led to the arrest of the Chechens who had been released - because of "imminent danger", the court officials have said.
The responsible regional court in Wiener Neustadt assumed that the men who had previously been considered harmless had been given the risk of escaping, collusion, perpetrating an offense or executing an offense. Formally, the investigation is ongoing towards terrorist groups. The case is being carried out as an interdiction, both law enforcement agencies and the Ministry of the Interior reacted cautiously to inquiries. What is certain is that the three suspects were in constant contact with one another via their cell phones, even though prison law prohibits cell phones and communication with the outside world should be impossible. According to the current investigation, the alleged accomplices should initially have helped the main suspect escape from prison. A fake Romanian passport in the name of the 24-year-old was seized from the 25-year-old.
Police try to calm fears
It is unclear to what extent the two were involved in the 24-year-old's terror plans. The attorneys for the alleged accomplices, Wolfgang Blaschitz and Florian Kreiner, assured that their clients had communicated with the prisoner, "but did not plan any crooked things," as Blaschitz emphasized. He represents the 25-year-old, who is known in the Viennese martial arts scene as a very successful MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter. Like the 31-year-old, he has never harmed anyone, and acquaintances from the MMA scene described the athlete as "perfectly integrated" in conversation with the "press". For him, competitive sport was in the first place, he was a "normal believer". Kreiner, the lawyer, asserts that the 31-year-old, a family man, has "nothing to do with the whole thing". He was a Muslim, "but not radicalized.”
In any case, the central figure is said to be the 24-year-old, and he is anything but an unknown: he was twice convicted of organizing for terrorism (Section 278b of the Criminal Code). In October 2015, he was found guilty in Vienna after joining IS in the company of his mother in a wheelchair and his pregnant wife in Syria. The accused had been put under police control in Turkey and had been sent back to Austria. The young man - his wife appeared fully veiled in court, only when he nodded did she take off her face veil - was given two years of unconditional detention in his first trial. He was released prematurely after around 14 months, although it was announced that he had "missionized" prisoners in prison.
Shortly after his release, the Chechen wanted to go back to Syria, failed again and was again sentenced to two years in Korneuburg in October 2017. The 24-year-old has now been transferred to a maximum security prison.
The population had to, as a police spokesman told the "press" Monday evening, "not worry": The security concept for Vienna's Christmas markets, which has been in place for months, will not be changed. The risk situation has not changed. According to the police, authorities and organizers in Vienna are in constant contact, police officers in uniform and in civilian clothes are on duty - similarly in Salzburg: Christkindl markets or the city center where New Year's Eve is celebrated are also well secured with the previous measures.
Prison minister: Stepping up the radicalization work
Ramazan Demir, Honorary Chairman of Islamic Prison Counseling in Austria, worked as a pastor for eight years and wrote the book "Among Extremists: A Prison Counselor looks into the soul of radical Muslims". He points to the enormous importance of prevention and deradicalization in prisons. Because almost all assassins across Europe had been in prison and had been (further) radicalized there because they would equate Islam with violence without a stop or orientation and with a wrong understanding of religion.
It is all the more important to "support and educate these people" in cooperation with the state authorities and the Islamic community in Austria. To do this, more resources are needed, after all, there are around 2,000 Muslim prisoners in Austria.
Edit: 2,000 too many. Shouldn’t they be located somewhere to the east of the Danube?
(k.b./cim/win - "Die Presse" print edition from 17.12.2019)