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Austria terrorist attack suspect identified as ISIS sympathizer

Austrian synagogue
Police respond to a terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria. |

A suspect involved in the terror attack near an Austrian synagogue in which four people were killed and 17 other wounded was an Islamic State sympathizer, authorities say, amid an ongoing investigation.

Austrian security officials have named 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, and whose parents are ethnic Albanians, as the gunman, Sky News reported.

In April 2019, Fejzulai was sentenced to prison for 22 months because he had attempted to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State terrorist group. He was released in December under the nation's juvenile law and had been in a "deradicalization program" run by a nongovernmental organization.

The Monday evening attack occurred close to the main synagogue in the Austrian capital city — the first shots were fired at approximately 8 p.m. — and took place on the final night of open restaurants before another lockdown was to start in the central European nation in response to COVID-19. 

Police shot dead another suspect who was armed with an assault rifle and was wearing a fake suicide vest.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside bars beneath his window.

"They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building," he said.

"All these bars have tables outside. As of midnight, all bars and restaurants will be closed in Austria for the next month, and a lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out," he added.

Sebastian Kurz, chancellor of Austria, confirmed Tuesday that the violence was "clearly an Islamist terror attack."

"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."

Austria's interior minister, Karl Nehammer, described the suspect as an Islamic State sympathizer and said that an operation to find any other suspects was ongoing, noting that special forces from neighboring nations were assisting with the investigation.

Police say that 14 others were part of a network that supported Fejzulai. They have been arrested in raids that were carried out Tuesday and will remain in detention while the investigation occurs.

Fejzulai reportedly posted a photo of himself on social media before the attack showing himself holding an assault rifle, pistol, and machete that he used in the attack.

The latest violence has reinvigorated the debate about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism across Europe and comes on the heels of two separate terrorist attacks in France. On Saturday, a Greek Orthodox priest was attacked with a sawed-off shotgun in the city of Lyon, days after three people were killed in an Islamist extremist attack at a Catholic church in the city of Nice.

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