|Austrian police via Aljazeera|
Austrian police arrested 13 people and raided homes, prayer rooms and mosques around the country early Friday in a mass operation targeting suspected jihad recruiters, prosecutors said. Some 900 police were involved in the raids, which took place in Vienna, Graz and Linz. They follow a two-year investigation into several people suspected of recruiting young people to fight in Syria. Media reports said a Vienna-based Bosnian preacher, who was the main suspect, was among those arrested in the raids which began at 4:00am. Police also seized "terrorist propaganda," files and money in various homes, said prosecutors in Graz, who were coordinating the operation. Beyond recruiting fighters, the Kronen Zeitung newspaper said that the suspects were investigated for helping to finance the Islamic State group.... Austria's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung) warned in June over the threats faced by the country, saying: "Religiously motivated extremism and terrorism – above all of Islamic character – as well as Salafi-jihadi groups continue to present a great potential threat…The number of young radicalized followers of violent Salafism continues to rise. In this context, the conflict in Syria is of urgent relevance for Austria, since systematic efforts are being made within [Austria] to radicalize and recruit people for the war in Syria…The conflict in Syria has become very popular among violent extremist Salafis... The spectrum of recruits to the conflict in Syria is broadly ethnically diverse. The motivation, however, seems to be uniformly jihadi."In a background analysis published just a few weeks back ["Radical Islam in Austria is active and growing", TheLocal.at November 11, 2014], the same newspaper observed that Austria
has become a hub of extremism that includes not only Islamic State terrorism but also Iranian nuclear proliferation activities as well as active support for Hamas... The mushrooming recruitment by Islamic State, and the presence of a large pocket of support for Hamas, pose major challenges for Austria's struggling counterterrorism establishment. Even so, Iranian intelligence's extensive network, including agents who have previously carried out a 1989 terrorist attack with impunity in Vienna, will remain Austria's greatest terror threat for the foreseeable future. The interrelationship among the three jihadist movements -- Hamas, Iran's regime, and the Islamic State -- playing out in Austria helps to explain why critics view the relatively small Central European country as a danger zone.A syndicated Reuters report ["Facing fears over extremism, Austria unveils new law on Islam", Reuters, October 2, 2014] noted that Austria is currently home to about half a million Muslims, about 6 percent of the total population. Growing concerns about rising Islamist radicalization and reports of Austrian Muslims joining Islamist forces in the Middle East led the Austrian government to announce a new law that will
prohibit foreign funding of Muslim organizations on its soil... prompting concern from a major local Islamic body, which saw it mirroring widespread mistrust of Muslims. "The clear message should be that there is no contradiction between being a faithful Muslim and a proud Austrian," said Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz, a member of the conservative People's Party. "If you don't have orderly legal regulation ... this can always bring dangers (of extremism). In this sense, if you like, this is maybe a part of prevention," he told reporters. He added that Sharia, or Islamic law, had "no place here". [Reuters]On December 27, 1985, Palestinian Arab terrorists hurled grenades and fired guns at travelers lined up at the El Al check-in counter of Vienna's international airport, Three people were killed.