ROME — Vienna police have alerted of a possible “Islamist-motivated attack” on churches, citing information received by the country’s intelligence services.
“The Directorate for State Security & Intelligence received information that an Islamist-motivated attack was planned in Vienna,” Vienna police tweeted Wednesday. As a precautionary measure, “neuralgic points of interest” have been put under increased guard by regular and special operation police forces.
Police said they had learned of “a nonspecific threat of an assault against churches,” which explains the “larger number of police forces with special equipment in the entire city area.”
Noting they cannot at present foresee “the duration of those measures,” police pledged to “issue a warning immediately” if an imminent danger develops at any given location.
In order to assist law enforcement, police asked locals not to “spread rumors” and or “share pictures of videos of police measures and operations,” which could “support potential perpetrators and endanger our forces in the field.”
Police also clarified that the present threat may extend beyond Christian churches to other houses of worship and security forces are keeping up a present at all key sites.
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Police spokesman Markus Dittrich told local radio station Radio Wien that “officers are equipped with bulletproof helmets and vests and assault rifles” and will carry out “surveillance activities” as well as “checks in road traffic.”
Radio Wien noted that according to certain reports, the attack plans “could target Syrian-Christian institutions in the federal capital,” a theory that has not been confirmed by the police or the Ministry of the Interior.
The founder of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Austria, Emanuel Aydin, says he has not yet had direct contact with the police, adding that the church is still open.
A spokesman for the Vienna Archdiocese told the Associated Press (AP) that Catholic churches did not appear to be the main target.
“We do not appear to be primarily affected,” spokesman Michael Prueller said. “While we were informed by police about the general threat, we were also told that there is no imminent danger for Catholics. So we decided to keep out churches open to the public and celebrate all church services as planned for the time being.”
In November 2020, heavily armed gunmen opened fire in a coordinated attack at six different locations in Vienna’s city center, killing two men and two women and wounding at least 22 more.
Police shot one of the gunmen dead, identified by Interior Minister Karl Nehammer as an “Islamist terrorist” who in 2019 had been sentenced to 22 months in jail after trying to reach Syria to join Islamic State jihadists, but who was released after serving just 5 months of his sentence.
The 20-year-old militant, identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, an Islamic State sympathizer and a dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, was armed with an assault rifle, a pistol, and a machete.
Police eventually detained eighteen suspects in connection with the attack and the Austrian government closed off two mosques in Vienna frequented by the assailant.
Thomas D. Williams is Breitbart Rome Bureau Chief and the author of The Coming Christian Persecution.
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