Austrian police have launched a mass raid on mosques and prayer rooms in a crackdown on suspected jihadists who trying to radicalise young people.
Nearly 500 officers raided religious centres in Vienna, Graz and Linz early today, detaining 13 people. Reuters reports that authorities also seized “terrorist propaganda material”, illegal iron knuckles and cash.
The Austrian capital Vienna is increasingly being seen as major centre for global jihad, with counter-terrorism analyst John R. Schindler writing that Islamists are attracted to the country due to its “permissive laws and weak enforcement mechanisms”.
Nine jihadis were arrested in August in the country for planning to join ISIS, while the country’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT) warned in June:
“Religiously motivated extremism and terrorism – above all of Islamic character – as well as Salafi-jihadi groups continue to present a great potential threat…The number of young radicalized followers of violent Salafism continues to rise.
“In this context, the conflict in Syria is of urgent relevance for Austria, since systematic efforts are being made within [Austria] to radicalize and recruit people for the war in Syria…The conflict in Syria has become very popular among violent extremist Salafis.
“The spectrum of recruits to the conflict in Syria is broadly ethnically diverse. The motivation, however, seems to be uniformly jihadi.”
People from the Balkans, especially Bosnia, constitute a high percentage of extremists in the country, the BVT added.