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Sunday, November 28, 2021

ISIS claims Vienna attack as gunman’s family hometown stunned

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Monday’s deadly shooting rampage in Vienna, as the gunman’s family hometown expressed its shock over the attack.

At least four people died when the 20-year-old convicted ISIS sympathiser opened fire at about 8pm on Austria’s final night before lockdown.

He was shot dead by police as officers later arrested 14 others in sweeping raids across the country.

ISIS – which has claimed numerous attacks in Europe – said a “soldier of the caliphate” was responsible for the Vienna attack, according to its Amaq News Agency.

The propaganda arm also published a photo and a video purporting to show the gunman.

The picture, released on Telegram, showed a bearded man identified as “Abu Dagnah Al-Albany”.

Albany carries a pistol, a machine gun and a machete and is wearing a ring stamped with a sentence saying “Mohammed is the messenger of Allah”.

Amaq posted a video of Albany minutes later in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi.

Albany would normally be used to refer to someone with Albanian origins. The statement did not identify the man by any other name.

Austrian officials have identified the attacker as Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, who was jailed in April 2019 for attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

ISIS provided no evidence to back up its claims.

It was also unclear whether the group directly ordered Fejzulai to carry out the attack.

Security expert Matteo Pugliese, from the University of Barcelona, told The National on Tuesday that ISIS had made a rallying call to its followers to commit attacks on Europe using its latest social media platforms.

But he said it was too early to say what had motivated the Vienna attacker.

“He was very young and it’s more likely he was radicalised online or with some peers. He probably was fascinated by ISIS digital propaganda. For sure he didn’t do this completely alone, he had some logistics support for weapons,” he said.

“ISIS recently asked its followers to carry out attacks in Europe, but it seems this terrorist decided to take action autonomously and to pledge allegiance to ISIS just before the attack.

“The attacker was among at least 90 individuals stopped by the authorities from travelling to Syria.”

He was released in December last year after “fooling” his way through a deradicalisation programme, serving about eight months of his 22-month sentence.

Fejzulai was born in Vienna but had dual Austrian and North Macedonian nationality.

In an interview with North Macedonia’s Klan Macedonia TV, a man identified as Fejzulai’s grandfather said his grandson visited the tiny mountainous village of Cellopek every year.

An Islamic cleric from the village, Nuri Ganii, said: “I know his family and here everyone speaks well about the family … only today we have learned that a person (from that family) was involved in terrorism.

“I want to say that terrorism has no link to Islam.”

Another villager, Fadil Limany, said: “I only know good things of his parents and his family”

He added: “He was born there and lived there (in Austria) … he is from a good family. How it came to his mind I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz urged European nations to take more decisive action against terrorism.

He called on the European Union to fight against “political Islam,” saying it was an ideology that represented a “danger” to the model of the European way of life, in an interview published in Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said Monday’s attack was “home-grown terrorism” and that authorities were not expecting it.

He said the attacker had managed to dupe a deradicalisation programme.

“The perpetrator managed to fool the deradicalisation programme of the justice system, to fool the people in it, and to get an early release through this,” he said.

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