The Austrian security authorities are targeting a suspected cell of the Islamic State (IS) extremist network, which may be planning attacks at major events in Europe. As the Ministry of the Interior in Vienna announced on Tuesday, the members are mainly Iraqis “who are said to have played leading roles in the heyday of IS”. The network was identified as early as April in connection with the marathon in Vienna.
The alleged members of the IS cell had been recruited again for the execution of new attack plans by the top IS leadership in Europe, it said. The announcement of the ongoing investigations was published after a report in the “Kronen-Zeitung” on IS attack plans for the marathon at the end of April in Vienna.
The Ministry of the Interior also said that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution took the threat posed by the IS members “very seriously” and initiated “awareness-raising and protective measures” for the marathon in Vienna with around 30,000 participants. The sporting event was therefore “not specifically in the focus” of the IS cell.
According to the Interior Ministry, the cell also has members in other European countries. Austria’s intelligence service was able to identify the Austrian cell “in the context of intensive cooperation with domestic and foreign authorities”. Which other countries are involved was not disclosed.
According to the Austrian news agency APA, the organizer of the Vienna marathon was surprised in a statement that the event was said to have been the target of an attack. During the week of the marathon, she was not informed about a concrete attack scenario at the annual preparatory meeting with the authorities. There were also no special organizational requirements or precautions in this context.
The Austrian Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, declared that state security and the intelligence service had “made a decisive contribution to countering terrorism in Austria through meticulous investigations”. The “close exchange with foreign partners” was “a decisive success factor”.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the investigations that are still ongoing also concern the allegation of terrorist financing through payments from Austria to the IS. According to the Interior Ministry, the members of the IS cell keep in touch via encrypted messages. They would also have used chat functions from video games on game consoles. “Conspiratorial meetings” within Europe also took place.