Austria police detain 13 in extremist dragnet

Austrian police officers in full combat adjustment for life threatening mission including gun (not used for riots in Austria) (left) and uniform of riot police officer (right) pose in front of a water cannon at their headquarters in Vienna on Oct 8,
Austrian police officers in full combat adjustment for life threatening mission including gun (not used for riots in Austria) (left) and uniform of riot police officer (right) pose in front of a water cannon at their headquarters in Vienna on Oct 8, 2014. Austrian police raided homes, prayer rooms and mosques around the country early Friday in a mass operation targeting suspected extremist recruiters, the Austria Press Agency reported, citing police sources. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (Reuters, AFP) - Austrian police detained 13 people in a dragnet on Friday aimed at suspected extremists working to radicalise young people and encourage them to join militant forces in Syria, prosecutors in Graz said.

Media said nearly 500 police searched mosques and prayer rooms in Vienna, Graz and Linz on Friday as part of the investigation, which comes amid a European crackdown on fighters who have joined up with radical forces in Syria and Iraq.

Prosecutors said in a statement that they had questioned 16 people in the investigation of suspected members of a terrorist organisation. Authorities seized “terrorist propaganda material”, cash and illegal iron knuckles in the raids.

Some 150 people have so far left Austria to join Islamic hardliners in Syria and Iraq, or have been stopped while trying to do so, according to the interior ministry. The case of two Austrian teenage girls who left for Syria in April, telling their parents that they wanted to “fight for Islam” there, especially grabbed headlines here.