Dozens of young Chechen and Afghan migrants went to war on the streets of Vienna this weekend, inflicting near fatal injuries in the “mass brawl” with knives, iron bars and wooden batons.
Afghans have recently overtaken Chechens as the largest immigrant group in Austria, and the fight is thought to be part of an ongoing turf war between the two ethnic groups, which has been linked to drugs and crime.
Following the dramatic scenes involving around 50 teenagers, police spokesman Paul Eidenberger told Die Presse: “There were shown to be two attempted murders and five potentially fatal injuries.”
Those suffering serious injuries were just 14 and 17-years-old.
The dispute is reported to have started on Facebook, later spilling out of the virtual world and on to a street in front of a youth centre in the Engerthstraße district of the Austrian capital.
A smaller group of Chechens had gathered outside before being met by a much lager contingent of Afghans. Several arrests were made when police arrived, but the majority of the youths managed to flee the scene.
Gabriele Langer, the manager of the association Vienna Youth Centres, said that there was likely to be a political undercurrent to the “ethnically charged” migrant violence, as well as more typical teenage aggression.
“You can not fix on only one ethnic group,” she told Wien Orf. “There are always conflicts, especially between male adolescents… now this is very ethnically charged and that must also be attributed”, she said.
Following the fight, locals said many residents now had a “bad feeling”, with witness Maria Ritt saying: “I feel uncomfortable if I go out alone.”
Conflict between young ethnic groups in Austria is nothing new, but the issue is increasingly “mixed with the asylum topic” according to Ms. Langer.
Due to a series of wars in the 1990s, there are thought to be between 70,000 and 12,000 Muslim Chechens in Europe, as many as 45,000 of which could be based in Austria.
However, their dominance as the largest minority group in the country has been challenged by the arrival of a vast number of Afghan migrants during Europe’s recent migration crisis.
Austria received 90,000 asylum claims last year, equivalent to one per cent of its population, a large percentage of which was from Afghanistan.
“Both groups have a bad reputation. It is now probably also about deciding who has the toughest guys,” added Ms. Langer.