Austria, Not France, Is the Model for Europe’s Crackdown on Islamists

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Source: Foreign Policy

As tragic as it was, the terrorist attack in Vienna on Nov. 2 was not a major surprise for Europe’s counterterrorism experts. The events in Vienna and, a week earlier, in the French city of Nice have only brought back onto the radar of the general public a phenomenon that the European counterterrorism community knows well: The threat has never disappeared.

The terrorist threat is certainly less acute than it was in the years 2014-2017, when, spurred by the sirens of the Islamic State, European jihadis struck the continent regularly and sometimes with devastating attacks. But the European jihadi scene has certainly not evaporated.

The threat is multifaceted: There are lone wolves as well as small cells of self-radicalized sympathizers and jihadis who come from outside Europe to strike. (The Vienna attacker was a mix of the two dynamics, as he came from a transnational milieu of Islamic State sympathizers but acted alone when he carried out the attack.)

In the case of Vienna, an additional frustrating dynamic seen time and again throughout Europe over the years also seems to be at play. The perpetrator had recently been convicted in Austria of trying to join the Islamic State, served only part of a short sentence, and was released early. His early release and obviously loose post-release monitoring will unquestionably be scrutinized in the weeks to come (and have already led to the head of Austrian intelligence stepping down). But they are symptomatic of the difficulties European authorities experience in keeping tabs on radicalized and potentially dangerous individuals due to both the large number of suspects and the many legal and bureaucratic challenges that constrain them.

It is also not overly surprising that Austria has been hit. Beyond the cliché images of a placid Alpine country with a capital that regularly ranks first in the world’s quality of life rankings, in recent years Austria has faced high levels of jihadi radicalization.

Beyond the cliché images of a placid Alpine country with a capital that regularly ranks first in the world’s quality of life rankings, in recent years Austria has faced high levels of jihadi radicalization.

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Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

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