Suspects detained in Austrian anti-terror raids

Austrian police have arrested several suspects in anti-terror raids in Vienna and Graz.
Austrian police have arrested several suspects in anti-terror raids in Vienna and Graz. PHOTO: REUTERS

VIENNA (AFP) - Austrian police said Thursday (Jan 26) they have arrested several suspects during large anti-terror raids carried out in the cities of Vienna and Graz.

"The operations are still ongoing but I can confirm that a number of suspects have been detained," police spokesman Fritz Grundnig told AFP.

Some 800 police officers stormed flats and unofficial mosques in Vienna and Graz as part of the crackdown, which targeted people from the former Yugoslavia suspected of establishing an extremist network in Austria, according to Austrian media.

The raids were reportedly not connected to last week's arrest of a suspected 17-year-old Islamist extremist in Vienna, the Krone tabloid reported.

Instead, Krone said the raids allegedly focused on the network of a Muslim preacher from Bosnia who was jailed for 20 years last July in Graz for recruiting young fighters to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

The accused, known as Ebu Tejma, is thought to have "brainwashed" dozens of people aged between 14 and 30 and enlisted a number of them to fight for ISIS in Syria.

Tejma fled from Bosnia to Vienna following the break-up of Yugoslavia and preached in various Austrian and southern German cities, becoming a "key figure" in pushing ISIS propaganda, according to the prosecution.

He was arrested during a far-reaching crackdown on Austrian extremist networks in 2014 and has denied the charges against him.

Austria has so far been spared by the string of attacks by Islamist extremists in other European countries in recent years.

But around 300 people have either left or were intercepted trying to leave Austria to fight in Syria, according to the interior ministry. Around 40 have died there while some 90 have come back.

On Friday, police detained an Austrian national of Albanian origin for allegedly planning a terror attack in Vienna.