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Islamic Terrorist Attack in Vienna Follows Recent Attacks in France

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Panorama of Vienna, Austria | Islamic Terrorist Attack in Vienna Follows Recent Attacks in France | Featured

A 20-year old Islamic extremist identified as Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people and wounded 22 others in a nightlife district in Austria’s capital, Vienna, on Monday night. Fejzulai was armed with a fake explosive vest, a Kalashnikov, an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete. He was killed by police on the scene. It is still unclear if he acted alone or with accomplices.

The attack began around 8 pm near a synagogue. Fejzulai was said to be running down the cobblestone streets, shooting wildly. Austria had just announced a month of increased restrictions in response to the rise in coronavirus cases. With this, outdoor seating at restaurants and cafes was full ahead of a midnight curfew.

Police named six locations where shootings took place in central Vienna: Seitenstettengasse and nearby Morzinplatz, Salzgries, Fleischmarkt, Bauernmarkt, and Graben. Fejzulai was shot dead near St Rupert’s Church at 8:09 pm. The four victims were an elderly woman, an elderly man, a young male passerby, and a waitress.

“Yesterday’s attack was clearly an Islamist terror attack,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. “It was an attack out of hatred — hatred for our fundamental values, hatred for our way of life, hatred for our democracy in which all people have equal rights and dignity.”

In April 2019, Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in prison after he had tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) group. He was granted early release in December under juvenile law. Fejzulai was originally from North Macedonia but had been raised in Austria, and held dual citizenship.

Authorities Mobilized

A major anti-terrorist operation has been launched and police have set up roadblocks around the city center of Vienna. An estimated 1,000 police officers were on duty early Tuesday morning. An increased police presence will be accompanied by an elevated security level in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, police in nearby Czech Republic said they were carrying out random checks on the border. It is doing so in case other suspects fled in that direction. Germany also increased checks at its borders.

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“All the signs make it clear it’s a radicalised person and a person who feels closely connected to IS,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said of the slain attacker.

The minister had earlier said: “According to what we currently know, there is at least one attacker who is still on the run.” Video evidence has not yet supported this claim.

Nehammer urged Vienna residents to remain in their homes and keep away from all public places or public transport. He said children would not be expected to go to school on Tuesday.

World Leaders Show Support

Leaders from the Western world have voiced their support for Austria. These include French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks. Another leader who did so is  German Chancellor Angela Merkel. U.S. President Donald Trump also condemned “yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe.”

The attacks in France included the killing of two women and a man in a church in Nice. The suspect used a knife and it was reported that one of the women was decapitated. The suspect was then shot by police and taken to a hospital.

Another high-profile killing in France was of secondary school teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in the street on his way from work near Paris. He had just completed a discussion on free speech with his class, during which he showed a caricature of the prophet Muhammad.

During Paty’s national funeral last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France was in an “existential” battle against Islamist fundamentalism, and vowed that France would never give up on free speech, including the right to caricature religions.

Much of Europe has been subjected to violent attacks by Islamists after the continent has taken in millions of refugees from the Middle East in recent years. The fundamental differences in values have also led to increased violent crime and decreased economic activity as streets are perceived to be unsafe after dark. Killings, rapes, and crimes have exploded since 2015. However, to mention that refugees could be the problem is considered “religious discrimination” and “xenophobia.”

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