International News

Vienna Gunman Was ISIS Sympathiser, Convicted Terrorist Released Early from Prison

Austrian authorities have confirmed that a gunman fatally shot dead after committing a terror attack in Vienna was an Islamic State sympathiser, with local media naming him as Kujtim F., a convicted terrorist who had been released early from prison.

Last night terror unfolded in the Austrian capital when gunmen, described as well-prepared, “very professional”, and “heavily armed”, began an assault across the city. Two men and two women were killed and 17 injured, seven critically. Police also shot dead one suspect. Authorities are searching for at least one other; however, eyewitnesses describe seeing several assailants.

Police are investigating six crime scenes in central Vienna, with the shootings taking place in a busy area, populated with restaurants and bars that were full of patrons. Mild weather had attracted many Viennese out on the last evening before the new coronavirus curfews came into force. Nearby also was Vienna’s central synagogue.

Authorities have yet to conclude whether there was an antisemitic element to the choice of location to commit the attack; however, all Jewish temples in the country were closed due to the pandemic.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer confirmed that the gunman, who was “neutralised” at 8:09 pm local time — nine minutes after the terror attack began — was an Islamic State sympathiser. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday night that the incident was “definitely a terrorist attack”.

“He was equipped with a dummy explosive belt, an automatic rifle, a handgun, and a machete to carry out this disgusting attack on innocent citizens,” Interior Minister Nehammer said.

Authorities had located and are examining the Islamist terrorist’s apartment, with several arrests taking place on Tuesday morning. Two of the arrests took place in St Pölten, a town west of Vienna.

Interior Ministry sources speaking to Kronen Zeitung claim that the dead terrorist was Kujtim F., a 20-year-old North Macedonian with Austrian citizenship and a criminal record. Florian Klenk, the editor of Austrian investigative magazine Falter, tweeted on Tuesday that Kujtim was “born and raised in Vienna” and is of Albanian heritage, and that his parents were from North Macedonia.

Kronen Zeitung revealed Kujtim F. had been found guilty of terrorism offences in April 2019, and sentenced to 22 months in prison, for attempting to travel to Syria to join Islamic State. The newspaper explains that he had been conditionally released in December 2019 — 14 months early — because “he was considered a young adult and thus fell under the privileges of the Juvenile Court Act”.

The Islamist had reportedly pledged an oath of allegiance to the new head of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, shortly before the bloody attack, and was on the Austrian government’s terror watch list.

Story cited here.

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