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Austrian police raid suspects in Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood terror probe

Prosecutors investigate over 70 people and several groups suspected of involvement in forming terrorist association, financing terror, money laundering; no link to Vienna attack

A police officer with mask standing behind a barrier in downtown Vienna, Austria, October 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Illustrative: A police officer with mask standing behind a barrier in downtown Vienna, Austria, October 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA (AFP) — Austrian police on Monday raided more than 60 addresses allegedly linked to radical Islamists, with orders for 30 suspects to be questioned, prosecutors said.

The operation came a week after a convicted Islamic State group supporter killed four people in a shooting rampage in the heart of Vienna, but prosecutors said the raids were not linked to the attack.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the police action was aimed at “cutting off the roots of political Islam,” presumably referring to extremist Islamism.

The Styria region prosecutors’ office said it was “carrying out investigations against more than 70 suspects and against several associations which are suspected of belonging to and supporting the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas organizations.”

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer addresses a press conference on November 2, in Vienna on November 6, 2020 (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

It said “the operation has no connection to the terror attack in Vienna of November 2” but was the result of “intensive and comprehensive investigations carried out for more than a year.”

Among the alleged offenses are forming a terrorist association, financing of terrorism and money laundering.

The raids took place in the Styria, Carinthia, Lower Austria and Vienna regions.

‘Hostile ideology’

“We are acting against these criminal, extremist and inhuman organizations with all our strength,” Nehammer said in a statement.

The prosecutors’ statement said the operation “was not targeted at Muslims or Islam as a religious community.”

“On the contrary these measures are also intended to protect Muslims, whose religion is abused for the purposes of an ideology hostile to the constitution,” it said.

In a video distributed by the Islamic State terror group, Vienna attacker Kujtim Fejzulai pledges allegiance to IS caliph Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, while holding a gun and a long, serrated knife. (Screenshot)

Last Monday’s shooting was the first major attack of its kind in Austria for decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

The gunman was identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, 20, a dual Austrian-Macedonian national who was convicted last year of trying to go to Syria to join IS.

Austria has acknowledged security lapses in the run-up to the attack, including failing to act on warnings about Fejzulai and his contacts from Germany and Slovakia.

The head of Vienna’s anti-terror agency was suspended last week after further revelations came to light about intelligence failings.

A woman in the Seitenstettengasse in front of the synagogue, where candles and flowers commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack at one of the crime scenes, in the center of Vienna, Austria, on November 8, 2020 (HERBERT PFARRHOFER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT

Last week the government also ordered the closure of two mosques in Vienna frequented by the attacker.

Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel and France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune will visit Vienna on Monday to meet Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and to discuss cross-border cooperation in the fight against terror.

Kurz will also take part in talks via video link with French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has been hit by a spate of jihadist attacks.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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