Thursday, April 29, 2010

Austria: More Muslims leaving for terror training

More and more Muslims are going from Austria to terrorism camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is the main claim on the topic of Islamic extremism, in a recent intelligence report by the Interior Ministry. On Monday, a 105 page dossier was published with information about terrorist risk sources for Austria in 2009.

The Interior Ministry remains silent about the number of people who are suspect of terrorsit training in the Middle East. Peter Gridling, head of the BVT (Austrian Security Service) said that this year (2010) they've already seen more departures than in the past four years combined. Gridling spoke of a number of people in the 'double digits', linked to terror camps, which the BVT is keeping an eye on.

The majority of these potential terrorist is 19-25 years old. Young people from Muslim families who completed their studies in Austria, as well as converts.

In most cases the recruitment is conducted on the Internet. According to the BVT, there are already 'libraries' available, which provide 'online training tutorials and manuals'.

It is difficult to prove that Muslims from Austria are being trained in terrorist camps. Travels are very creative, disguising the real reason for their absence. Often the suspect's community say that he's on a long 'language trip'.

The clues to the suspect's stay come from complex interrogations aboard, on the one hand, as well as from the family of the alleged terrorist camp participant. Gridling reported that in two cases they know that the suspects wrote their families a farewell letter. The BVT reports that the focus of the training is shifting to Somalia and Yemen.

Interior Minister Maria Fekter said that in general Islamic extremism does not pose such a big threat to Austria. Gridling added that radical Islam is not a mass phenomena in this country, and that just a few hundreds can be considered radicalized. The problem is with small groups who do not cooperate with al-Qaeda cells and are therefore more difficult to detect.

The new anti-terrorism law, which will institute punishments for terrorist camp training, is also aimed at radical preachers in mosques. Gridling said that at the moment there are only a few preachers in Austria for which the new law would apply. Nonetheless, he thinks it will change the tone and that it would be less aggressive.

Source: Die Presse (German)