Terrorism-Related Arrests in Austria

Two men and a woman have been arrested in Austria on charges apparently related to terrorism:

Austria became the latest European country to grapple with the threat of terrorism as it arrested three people with links to al Qaeda who posted an online video threatening attacks against Austria and Germany.

Austrian Interior Minister Günther Platter said on Wednesday, Sept. 12, that the trio suspected of producing the video had confessed to having links to al Qaeda. The video demanded German and Austrian soldiers leave Afghanistan.

The three, however, had not established an independent terrorist cell, and at no time was Austria directly in danger, he added.

“Austria was not under threat of an attack at any time,” Platter told a news conference. “We could determine that based on the actions of the three.”

This is the third terrorism-related arrest in Europe in three weeks.

I wish there were a little more meat on the bones of this story—it raises more questions than it answers. On what charges were the three arrested? Connection to al Qaeda? What was the nature of the connection?

There’s a little more detail in the AFP story:

Public security chief, Erich Buxbaum, said the three, all resident in Vienna, were second-generation Austrian Muslims whose families came from the Arab world.

“It was a conspiratorial network but we have no concrete evidence of planned terrorist attacks in Austria or elsewhere,” he said.

Nevertheless, wiretaps carried out before the arrests allegedly revealed discussion on how to handle explosives, he added.

Buxbaum said police forces from unspecified other countries gave help leading to the arrests. Police also said searches were being carried out following the arrests in the Austrian capital.

But while police sought to downplay the threat posed by the detainees, a US monitoring group said at least one of those arrested was a key member of Al-Qaeda’s media jihad outfit and was linked to the group that kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston in Gaza earlier this year.

The SITE Intelligence Group said its research “suggests one of those arrested is likely to be identified as a leader of the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), a virtual group responsible for disseminating Al-Qaeda propaganda but which has increasingly become involved in the operations of terrorist acts.”

The man used the alias Gharib al-Diyar and his job was to “translate and distribute Al-Qaeda videos to German speakers through his website, Jabha.info.

“The same individual also worked closely with the group responsible for kidnapping BBC journalist Alan Johnston earlier this year in Gaza, aiding Jeish al-Islam in producing and disseminating video footage of Johnston as well as in negotiating his release,” SITE said.

To my mind this story highlights the difficulties in counter-terrorism activities. How do you distinguish between actual law-breakinng and terrorist activities and simply posting while Arab?

3 comments… add one
  • Fletcher Christian Link

    Simple – you don’t. Almost all Arabs are Moslems – and therefore are the enemy.

  • Fletcher, that’s great in theory but impractical in the US. (I won’t comment on other Western nations as I have no familiarity with their legal systems.) The treatment of actual terrorists and terrorist abettorscaptured in other countries who never even touch US soil has created a huge legal and political scuffle that will take many years to sort out, on top of the six years we’ve already been fighting about it. Additionally, a great many of the Arabs and Arab-Americans (to distinguish between foreigners and citizens) are actually Christian, and a lot of radical Muslims come from non-Arab ethnic groups.

    Dave, did you come up with “posting while Arab”? That’s a great turn of phrase!

  • Dave, did you come up with “posting while Arab”? That’s a great turn of phrase!

    A poor thing but mine own.

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