Conflicts & War

Austria acknowledges lapses ahead of deadly terror attack

Vienna, Nov 4 (efe-epa).- The Austrian government failed to act on a tip received in July from officials in neighboring Slovakia that the Muslim extremist with a criminal record who went on to kill four people in Vienna this week in a lone-wolf attack had tried to buy ammunition, the interior minister said Wednesday.

While the information reached Austria’s BVT domestic security agency, “evidently something went wrong here with communications,” Karl Nehammer told a press conference.

He advocated the creation of a “commission to clarify whether the process went optimally and in line with the law.”

The Slovak government said Wednesday that Bratislava notified Vienna about the attempt by 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai to purchase ammunition.

Fejzulai, the Austrian-born son of ethnic Albanians from North Macedonia, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in Austria for trying to travel to Syria to join Islamic State.

But he was released last December after serving two-thirds of his sentence as a reward for good behavior and his having completed a deradicalization program.

Fejzulai and an unidentified person who accompanied him were turned away by the gun shop in Slovakia because neither had a weapon permit, according to media accounts.

Around 8.00 pm Monday, Fejzulai attacked pedestrians and patrons sitting outdoors at bars and cafes on a busy street in central Vienna near the city’s main synagogue.

Armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a machete, Fejzulai killed four people and wounded 20 others before he was fatally shot by police.

Though initial reports indicated that more than one person was involved, Nehammer said Wednesday that a painstaking analysis of more than 20,000 cellphone videos confirmed that Fejzulai acted alone.

Even so, authorities arrested 14 people between the ages of 18 and 28 on suspicion of links to the terrorist, the interior minister said.

Several of those people are dual nationals, while others have passports from countries “such as Bangladesh, (North) Macedonia, Turkey and Russia,” Nehammer said.

Fejzulai was on a watch-list of Islamist militants, but authorities did not consider him dangerous, and Nehammer suggested that the commission he is calling for should investigate how the terrorist had been able “to deceive perfectly” the administrators of the deradicalization program who agreed to his early release.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and released a video purporting to show Fejzulai swearing loyalty to IS in Arabic.

But Vienna’s police chief, Gerhard Pürstl, said that while the person in the video was Fejzulai, investigators suspect “the audio was added later by another person,” because the attacker was not an Arabic-speaker. EFE wr/dr

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