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Jihadism in Austria

by Guido Steinberg

A dangerous scene with great ideological power

On November 2, 2020, an assassin carried out the first jihadist attack in Austria. He killed four and injured 23 people in downtown Vienna before he was shot by the police. The events made clear how dangerous Austrian Islamist terrorism is. In our study, Dr. Guido Steinberg analyses the current risk situation, the corresponding counter-strategy and the political debate.
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In 2020, people in Austria were made cruelly aware that the danger posed by organizations such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida has not been averted. The jihadist milieu in Austria is weaker today than it was a few years ago, but it has become younger and more unpredictable. It is currently estimated  to consist of 70 to 150 particularly dangerous people.
In relation to the total population, Austria has very large contingents of Syria fighters and return travellers. A country-specific peculiarity is the extraordinarily high proportion of Chechen foreign fighters.
The fight against political Islam by the Austrian federal government harbours the danger that forces will be tied up in the security authorities that could be lacking in the fight against terrorism in the narrower sense. In this regard, it would be important to strengthen the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Fight against Terrorism (BVT).
Contrary to the ongoing debate about the refugee crisis from 2014 to 2016, none of the known Austrian terrorists came from the group of those who fled from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan during those years. The example of Chechen immigration, however, shows that immigration from regions of civil war in the Islamic world carries a longer-term risk.
This publication is part of the study series "Jihadist Terrorism in Europe". In this first part, Dr. Guido Steinberg takes a look at Austria. He analyses the current jihadist threat situation in the country as well as the corresponding counter-strategy  and the political debate.
We met with Dr. Guido Steinberg for an interview to talk to him about the jihadist threat situation in Austria.
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REUTERS/Yves Herman
August 11, 2021
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