Vienna police warn of 'Islamist-motivated attack' on churches, houses of worship
Police in Vienna are warning the public of a threat of an Islamist attack on churches and other places of worship.
In what authorities called a “precautionary measure,” police announced Wednesday an increased police presence in response to what authorities described as “undisclosed information the country's intelligence service had received.”
The agency tweeted, “intelligence services have reason to believe that an assault with an islamistic (sic) motive is planned to be carried out in Vienna” and that “as [a] precautionary measure…points of interest have been put under increased guard by regular & special operation police forces.”
Authorities did not disclose the location of specific targets.
It was unclear how long the increased police presence would remain in place, with police saying only that “at this moment, we cannot [foresee] the duration of those measures.”
Hours after the initial announcement, police clarified the threat does not “exclusively” target Christian churches but “also houses of worship of various confessions” and that the security measure would remain in place “until further notice.”
Since 2017, a number of Islamic terror attacks have rocked Austria, where an estimated 8% of the population — or approximately 720,000 people — are practicing Muslims, according to the latest data.
In November 2020, an Islamic State sympathizer carried out a terror attack near an Austrian synagogue in which four people were killed and 17 others were wounded.
Austrian security officials 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 later that year under the nation's juvenile law and had been in a "deradicalization program" run by a nongovernmental organization.
Just two years prior, a 22-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan stabbed a 50-year-old Christian woman for reading the Bible at an asylum center in Voecklamarkt in northwestern Austria.
In response to the attacks, the Austrian government launched a “National Map of Islam” website that identifies the names and locations of over 600 mosques throughout the majority-Catholic country.
In 2018, after the Austrian government vowed to shut down mosques and expel 60 imams on grounds that they violated a 2015 guideline banning foreign funding of religious institutions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of a possible "war" between Christianity and Islam.
In reference to then-Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz, Erdogan gave a speech in which he said, "These measures taken by the Austrian chancellor are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent."
“You do this and we sit idle? It means we will take some steps too," Erdogan said at the time, adding that the "western world should get their act together."