Austrian police are investigating whether the Islamic terrorism that killed four people in Vienna on Monday night was part of a wider network and whether the attack could be averted.
Kujtim Fejzulai, known by the authorities as a sympathizer of the Islamic State group, which has claimed to contribute to the murders, is believed to be the sole gunman in the attack despite hours of unknown whether the comrades are still crowded or not.
Two 20-year-old citizens of Austria and North Macedonia were shot dead nine minutes after the attack in central Vienna.
Police in Austria launched raids at 18 properties linked to the attacker on Tuesday and made 14 arrests. The two men were also arrested in the Swiss city of Winterthur, near Zurich, after it was reported that Fejzulai had met them in Switzerland.
Fejzulai is also believed to have arrived in neighboring Slovakia in July with another man, where he tried to buy ammunition matching the weapon he used in the attack, but the sale was for failed after he failed to present a gun license.
The Slovak authorities are believed to have notified their Austrian counterparts at the time. The men ride in a car registered under the name of a Muslim’s mother, known to the police.
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Tuesday that Fejzulai was known by the authorities as a sympathizer of Isis. He was sentenced to 22 months in a prison in Austria on April 25, 2019 for charges related to a terrorist organization, after attempting to cross the border from the Turkish border – where he met two Germans and one Belgian – entered Syria.
The verdict was suspended last December on the condition that he will be under regular supervision by probation services and will participate in an ethics program.
Nehammer and Austria’s prime minister, Sebastian Kurz, both of the conservative People’s Party, have criticized his early release from prison. Nehammer said Fejzulai was able to deceive his mentors in such a way that they did not receive any early warning signs of his extremism. He says it points to “a faulty line in our system”, which has allowed “the early release of an extremist”.
Alma Zadić, the green party’s justice minister, defended the decision, saying it was legitimate and that he was given parole. The Justice Department later said it was not informed of Fejzulai’s attempt to buy ammunition in Slovakia, saying it was a reason to arrest him.
The government met on Wednesday to discuss the security situation and whether the attack could have been averted.
Reinhold Einwallner, of the Social Democrats, said he was amazed that the attacker’s attempts to buy ammunition, especially when his relationship with Isis became known, did not trigger a security alert. . “It should have rang the alarm,” he told the Austrian Kurier newspaper.
He called for stronger exchange of information between the justice department and the interior about those perceived as security threats, saying: “IS numbers [Isis] those who return are of manageable size ”.
The Justice Department said it was not informed of Fejzulai’s attempt to buy ammunition in Slovakia, saying it was a reason to arrest him.
The populist far-right Liberal Party said the intelligence agency’s role should be urgently considered. “There are many indications that this terrorist and the people he moved to have been on the radar of intelligence agencies for a long time. And if that’s the case, why wasn’t this terrorist on the street? “Herbert Kickl of the party said.
Nikolaus Rast, an acting attorney for Fejzulai, said his client has been adulterous in life and is “good prey” for terrorist groups. “He left the impression on me as a young man looking for something, who did not know his position in society, who failed to find a suitable apprentice position and thus easily prey to certain groups, ”he told the Bild tabloid.
Three men, two of Turkish descent and the other Palestinian, are hailed as heroes for risking their lives at the scene of the attack to help some of the wounded.
Mikail Özen, 25, and Recep Tayyip Gültekin, 21, were about to park their car on the Schwedenplatz before enjoying a final cup of coffee together before getting locked into the coronavirus when the shooting started. They ran to a woman they saw lying on the ground for help, and Gültekin was shot.
“The attacker shot him. But Recep was able to intuitively save himself by rolling forward, ”Özen said. They have sought to bring the woman to safety.
Osma Yoda, 23, who was working in a McDonald’s on the square, was helping his boss with the box when they caught the gunman. “He hid in a closed garage entrance and was shooting at passersby,” said the Palestinian man. When the two policemen arrived, the gunman shot them, hitting one of them. “I pulled him behind a concrete bench and tried to stop the bleeding,” Yoda told Kurier. “He continued to shoot from a distance of about 20 to 30 meters. There is blood everywhere ”.
He then helped officers take him to a nearby ambulance, assisted by Gültekin and Özen, both amateur boxers. The men were welcomed by both the Turkish ambassador to Austria and the mayor of Vienna, who thanked them for their actions.
A police officer on duty on the night of the attack described the confusion and chaos he and colleagues tried to secure the bars and restaurants in the area. “The bullets kept coming and we were rescuing the wounded, but we don’t know where to take them, because we don’t know where this reservoir was,” he told the Austrian news agency APA.
The 27 wounded, who suffered both gun and knife wounds, are believed to be no longer in critical condition. Among those killed was a female student at the College of Applied Arts.