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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.