Austria figures prominently in a map produced by the Islamic State that outlines the group’s five-year plan for expanding its caliphate into Europe.
Austria: Springboard for Global Jihad
Soeren Kern | Gatestone Institute | August 26, 2014
The Austrian government has announced plans to improve its intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities in an urgent effort to crack down on would-be jihadists in the country.
The decision by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner to recruit 20 new intelligence officers to focus exclusively on the threat posed by radical Islam comes after police in Austria arrested nine Chechen immigrants who were on their way to wage jihad in Syria.
The move also comes amid growing concerns that Austria’s shiftless Muslim youth are becoming increasingly radicalized and vocal in their support of the jihadist group Islamic State.
The Chechens—eight men and one woman, ranging in age from 17 to 32—were purportedly planning to travel to Syria over a land route that would take them from Austria through the neighboring Balkans and on into Turkey. Four of the individuals were arrested in the southeastern Austrian province of Styria, and five others were detained in the province of Carinthia. Both provinces border Slovenia.
According to an analysis published by the newspaper Der Standard, Austria has emerged as a central hub for jihadists seeking to fight in Syria because Austria’s geographic location provides easy access to land routes through the Balkans.
Austrian intelligence officials say that most of the 130 Austrians who are thought to have travelled to Syria are Chechens. The rest are immigrants from Bosnia, Kosovo and Turkey. Approximately 60 Austrian jihadists are currently on the front lines, 50 have already returned to Austria and 20 have been killed in action.