by Soeren Kern:
Austria figures prominently in a map produced by the IS that outlines the group’s five-year plan for expanding its caliphate into Europe, and has emerged as a central hub for jihadists seeking to fight in Syria.
“The spectrum of recruits for the conflict in Syria is ethnically diverse. The motivation, however, appears to be uniformly jihadist.” — Austrian intelligence agency BVT.
“Allah also gives you the opportunity to wage jihad in Austria.” — Austrian jihadist Firas Houidi.
“We are proud that Allah has chosen us. We feel like lions.” — Austrian jihadist Abu Hamza al-Austria.
The Austrian government has announced plans to improve its intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities in an urgent effort to crack down on would-be jihadists in the country.
The decision by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner to recruit 20 new intelligence officers to focus exclusively on the threat posed by radical Islam comes after police in Austria arrested nine Chechen immigrants who were on their way to wage jihad in Syria.
The move also comes amid growing concerns that Austria’s shiftless Muslim youth are becoming increasingly radicalized and vocal in their support of the jihadist group Islamic State.
The Chechens—eight men and one woman, ranging in age from 17 to 32—were purportedly planning to travel to Syria over a land route that would take them from Austria through the neighboring Balkans and on into Turkey. Four of the individuals were arrested in the southeastern Austrian province of Styria, and five others were detained in the province of Carinthia. Both provinces border Slovenia.
According to an analysis published by the newspaper Der Standard, Austria has emerged as a central hub for jihadists seeking to fight in Syria because Austria’s geographic location provides easy access to land routes through the Balkans.
Austrian intelligence officials say that most of the 130 Austrians who are thought to have travelled to Syria are Chechens. The rest are immigrants from Bosnia, Kosovo and Turkey. Approximately 60 Austrian jihadists are currently on the front lines, 50 have already returned to Austria and 20 have been killed in action.
The returning jihadists are “ticking time bombs,” according to Mikl-Leitner. Her concerns are echoed in a June 2014 report by the Austrian intelligence agency BVT, which is emphatic about the threat posed by returning jihadists. The document states:
“When fighters return from the warzone, their newly acquired combat skills, traumatic experiences and changes in behavior, plus the possibility that they have become highly radicalized, represent a considerable security risk for Austria. Those who return could become involved in proselytizing activities as well as in establishing new radical centers in which they could serve as instructors. Potential terrorist attacks could be perpetrated by so-called lone wolves but also by organized terrorist groups.”
The report also warns of the “exploding radicalization of the Salafist scene in Austria.” Salafism is an anti-Western ideology that seeks to impose Islamic sharia law in Austria and other parts of Europe. The document states:
“The number of young radicalized followers of violent Salafism in Austria continues to rise. In this context, the conflict in Syria is of urgent relevance for Austria, because systematic efforts are being made within Austria to radicalize and recruit people for the war in Syria.
“The conflict in Syria has become very popular among violent extremist Salafists in Austria. The spectrum of recruits for the conflict in Syria is ethnically diverse. The motivation, however, appears to be uniformly jihadist.
“So-called hate preachers can have a decisive influence on the radicalization and recruiting processes by means of ideological and personal indoctrination. Jihad is offered as the only adequate means to solving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims. In Austria, this targeted manipulation is achieved through conspiratorial performances by charismatic leaders. Young Muslims, who are seeking alternative perspectives due to life crises, are often submissive victims to these ‘radicalizers’ and ‘recruiters’ and are often fascinated by the prospect of armed jihad.”
In any event, Salafism is on track to becoming a permanent fixture of Austrian society, if demographics are any indication. The Muslim population in Austria now exceeds 500,000 (or roughly 6% of the total population), up from an estimated 150,000 (or 2%) in 1990. The Muslim population is expected to reach 800,000 (or 9.5%) by 2030, according to recent estimates.
Read more at Gatestone Institute
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