Austria admits mistakes responding to intelligence on Vienna terrorist Fejzulai
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Austrian intelligence officials were told in July the terrorist who this week fatally shot four people in Vienna had tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia.
The revelation has led Austrian Interior Minister to admit to failures in the way the information, which came from Slovakia’s intelligence service, was handled.
He called for the formation of an independent commission to examine the matter.
Director-general for public security, Franz Ruf, said after receiving the tip-off from Slovakia, Austria’s domestic intelligence agencies at the federal and provincial level made the necessary checks and sent questions back to Bratislava.
When pressed on what had gone wrong, he said: “It’s up to the commission to clarify whether the process went optimally and in line with the law.”
The gunman, identified as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, had already been convicted of trying to reach Syria to join Islamic State and had spent time in jail.
He was shot dead by police within minutes of opening fire on crowded bars on Monday evening local time.
Mr Nehammer repeated criticism of a deradicalisation program the gunman participated in, saying he “perfectly” fooled the scheme to reintegrate extremists into society.
Austria has arrested 14 people aged 18 to 28 on Tuesday in connection with the attack and is investigating them on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
All of those arrested in Austria had a “migration background”, Mr Nehammer said.
Vienna police chief Gerhard Puerstl said some were dual citizens of Bangladesh, North Macedonia, Turkey or Russia.
The gunman was born and raised in the city but had dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship.
Neutral Austria, which is part of the US-led global coalition seeking to defeat Islamic State, has for years seen jihadist attacks as its biggest security threat and warned of the danger posed by foreign fighters returning from Iraq or Syria or their admirers.
At the end of 2018, authorities knew of 320 people from Austria who were actively involved or had wanted to fight in Syria and Iraq.
Of those, about 58 people were thought to have died in the region and 93 to have returned to Austria. Another 62 were prevented from leaving the country.
Mr Nehammer said members of the public had handed in more than 20,000 mobile phone videos that authorities analysed before concluding there was only one gunman in the Vienna attack, putting an end to lingering confusion on the point.
However, Switzerland has also arrested two men in connection with the attack.
Its Justice Minister alleged the two were “obviously friends” with the gunman.
Mr Ruf said Austria was in contact with Switzerland and another country that he declined to identify over the investigation.
North Macedonia said on Tuesday three people were somehow involved in the attack and all had dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship. It identified them only by initials.
Monday’s attack drew international expressions of support for Austria, which had been spared the deadly militant attacks that have hit other European countries in the past decade.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has suffered two deadly attacks recently amid Islamist anger over the publication of satirical caricatures of Mohammed, will visit Vienna next Monday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said.