The Austrian Interior Ministry has confirmed earlier reports that the gunman behind the deadly Vienna attack met with a group of fellow jihadists from Germany and Switzerland in the country’s capital several months ago.
“A meeting took place in Vienna among the people … from Germany and Switzerland, but there were also people present at the meeting with the later assailant who were arrested in the context of the investigation,” Interior Ministry’s Director General for Public Security Franz Ruf said at a news conference.
Austrian media reported earlier that more than a dozen of “young jihadists” from Austria, Germany and Switzerland gathered for what was described as “a three-country Islamist summit” in Vienna in mid-July. The meeting was said to have been organized by Kujtim Fejzullai, a 20-year-old Austrian native of Albanian origin who killed four people and wounded 23 more in the country’s capital on November 2.
Fejzullai, an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) sympathizer, was shot dead by police during the attack. Last year, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison for trying to join the militants in Syria but was released on parole shortly afterwards.
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According to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper, some of the Islamists were staying in Fejzullai’s apartment during their trip to Vienna, and they all were under constant surveillance by Austrian police. Shortly after the meeting, Fejzullai went to Slovakia in an attempt to buy bullets for his AK-47 assault rifle.
German and Swiss police conducted raids and arrested several people with ties to Fejzullai after the attack in Vienna. Swiss media reported that two men, aged 18 and 24, who were arrested in the country last week had travelled to Vienna between July 16 and July 20 to meet Fejzullai at an undisclosed location.
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer admitted that officials had made “intolerable mistakes” and failed to act on the tip from their Slovak colleagues about the “suspects from Austria” trying to buy ammunition in the country. “Something obviously went wrong in communication,” he said last week. An investigation was launched into how the main Austrian anti-terrorism agency handled the information on Fejzullai.
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