Conflict Alerts # 182, 5 November 2020
In the news
On 2 November, a total of six places witnessed shootings in central Vienna, just before the national lockdown was to come into force amid the surge in COVID-19 numbers. The attack initially suspected to have involved few gunmen, was later confirmed to have been carried out by one person. Further raids and arrests have continued since then, which led to 14 new arrests. Four dead and 22 injured have been reported from the incident. The Austrian Interior Ministry has termed the attack as a ‘Repulsive Terror Attack.’ The attacks have been late claimed by the terror group Islamic State (IS).
Issues at large
First, lone attacks back in focus. This attack has been confirmed as a lone attack, conducted in an individual capacity. The attacker posted his image on Instagram, with rifles and declared his motivation for the attack to extend support to the cause of the terrorist organisation Islamic State(IS). Lone attacks or lone wolf has been identified as a serious threat in the western societies. The independent way of conducting the attacks and their inspiration to a cause outside their country to a terrorist organisation make lone attacks difficult to prevent.
Second, timing close with the recent attacks in France. Two major attacks rocked France in the past weeks that brought condemnation especially in the Muslim countries and generated a renewed backlash against Islamophobia. Previously, a similar attack in the French city Nice where an attacker used a knife to kill three people outside the cathedral of Notre Dame. The attack in Nice was also carried out just before the national lockdown was to come into force in France.
Third, the spotlight on the migrant crisis in Europe. The Vienna attack was conducted by a Macedonian origin young man of 20-years-old. He was a citizen of Austria as well as Macedonia and was identified as Kujtim Fejzulai. He was also found to have travelled to Slovakia for the purchase of ammunition and attempted to visit Syria. He was in Austrian custody briefly for activities that included sympathising with ISIS but was released in December last year on the condition that he extends cooperation for de-radicalisation initiatives and also agreeing to be under close watch. Similarly, the attacker in Nice was of Tunisian origin, 21 years old, who travelled to France not long ago and even the attacker of Samuel Paty was an 18-year-old Chechen origin youth. The origin and past records of attackers may reignite the contentious debate on the status of immigrants, refugees and migrants in Europe who fail to integrate with the society and are prone to harming after falling prey to radicalisation.
Fourth, attacks break the trend of decreasing terror attacks in Europe in the recent past. Europe witnessed a decline in terror activities in the past three years after seeing a surge between 2012 to 2017. Starting with France, this attack in Austria will therefore suggest a new break in this trend.
A surge in terror activities along with the ongoing pandemic has set new challenges for Europe. The national lockdowns have put serious pressures on governments to handle radicalisation of the youth, while, at the same time, it may have emboldened the terror groups like IS.