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Vienna terror attack: Police begin probe

Vienna terror attack: Police begin probe
After a shooting armed police officers patrol on a street at the scene in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday.
VIENNA, NOV 4 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 11/4/2020 1:03:04 PM IST

Life in Vienna returned to something like normal Wednesday as Austrian authorities investigated whether a 20-year-old man who fatally shot four people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group had any accomplices.

Officials say the suspect, identified as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, had a previous conviction for trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria and had been released in December. He wounded more than 20 people in nine minutes before he was killed by police on Monday night.

Much of the capital remained shut down well into Tuesday, with authorities saying only in the afternoon that they hadn’t yet found any evidence of a second assailant. Schools reopened on Wednesday.

“Today everything seems to be back to normal, but of course the mood is a quite gloomy, as you can understand after such an incident,” Vienna resident Roman Schulz, 21, said.

“But I think we must stick together in Vienna. We must not let our joy of life be taken away from us.”

Two men and two women died from their injuries after the attacker, who was armed with a fake explosive vest, an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete, opened fire at people sitting in crowded bars and cafes hours before the establishments were closed under new coronavirus restrictions.

Authorities didn’t immediately give any new information Wednesday on the investigation. Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said Tuesday that 14 people associated with Fejzulai had been detained in Austria and were being questioned.

Police in the Swiss city of Winterthur said Tuesday two men were arrested there. Swiss daily St. Galler Tagblatt reported that Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter described them as “colleagues” of the attacker.

In Slovakia, police responded to reports that the suspect had traveled there in July to buy ammunition. They said on Facebook that they received information during the summer about “suspected persons from Austria” trying to buy ammunition.

“They failed to make the purchase,” the Slovakian police statement said, without elaborating. “We immediately sent the information to our Austrian colleagues.”

The Islamic State group claimed credit for the Vienna attack. The claim of responsibility was published through the militant group’s media arm, Aamaq.

It didn’t elaborate on the attacker’s ties to IS and had similar wording to past, opportunistic claims by the group. 

Questions mount over tracking gunman
Questions were mounting in Austria on Wednesday about how a convicted Islamic State sympathiser was able to carry out the deadly gun rampage in the heart of the capital Vienna.
Investigators are trying to piece together more information about the gunman’s circle after detaining 14 people in the wake of Monday’s shooting, the first major attack in Austria for decades and the first blamed on a jihadist. 
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has described the decision to release Fejzulai -- who was shot dead by police on Monday evening -- as “definitely wrong”.
“If he had not been released then the terror attack would not have been possible,” Kurz told public broadcaster ORF on Tuesday. Austria’s top security chief Franz Ruf told local media that at his last session of a publicly-funded de-radicalisation programme in late October, Fejzulai had condemned the recent jihadist attacks in France.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said Tuesday the attacker had successfully “fooled” the programmes in order to achieve his early release. Nehammer said his case had shown up a “fracture” in the system and that raids at Fejzulai’s home after the attack revealed plentiful evidence of his radical views.
He referred to a Facebook post in which Fejzulai posed with the Kalashnikov and the machete he would go on to use in the attack, together with IS slogans.
“Nobody would have thought him capable of something like this,” Nikolaus Rast, the lawyer who represented Fejzulai last year, told AFP on Wednesday. He also raised questions about possible oversights by the de-radicalisation programmes Fejzulai had attended. “Without wanting to put the blame on someone, if they are the experts, why didn’t they notice anything?” Rast said.
“They must have had the most -- and the last -- contact with him.”
Police are now working on the assumption that Fejzulai was the sole gunman, after the authorities initially feared in the aftermath of the attack that more than one assailant could be at large. 
They have carried out 18 raids and made 14 arrests over the killings, and Ruf said it was possible some of those currently being questioned by police could be accomplices.
The investigation is spanning several countries, with Switzerland making two arrests and Macedonia, where Fejzulai has family roots, cooperating with the Austrian authorities.
Kurz on Tuesday called for an EU response to “political Islam”, saying the ideology was “dangerous” for European freedoms and values.
His office said Wednesday he had been in touch with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss joint initiatives in the fight against terrorism.
The recent re-publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France has caused new tensions worldwide, sparking protests in some Muslim-majority countries and calls from several terror groups for their followers to take revenge. 
 

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