: What the Vienna attack may mean for Europe’s fight against terrorism

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Police vehicles in the center of Vienna on November 3, 2020, one day after at least four people were killed in multiple shootings.

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Two men and two women died after gunmen fired into crowds at bars and restaurants with outside seatings in the center of Vienna on Monday night. The shooting started near a synagogue. The Austrian police shot one of the assailants dead nine minutes into the attack, and later made several arrests at adresses linked to Daesh sympathisers.

  • 22 others were wounded by gunshots or knife wounds, three of which remain in a life-threatening condition, according to the Austrian press agency. A massive search is being conducted to catch the yet-unknown number of attackers.
  • Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, in an early press conference on Tuesday, asked the population to stay off the streets. “We experienced an attack yesterday evening by at least one Islamist terrorist, a situation that we have not had to live through in Austria for decades,” he said.
  • Officials said the suspect shot by the police was a 20-year old man of North Macedonian origin carrying an Austrian passport, who was convicted last year and sentenced to jail after trying to leave for Syria to join ISIS.  He was released in December last year.
  • “The enemy, the Islamist terror, wants to split our society, but we will give no space to this hatred,” Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Tuesday. “Our enemies are not the members of a religious community, these are terrorists. This is not a fight between Christians and Muslims, or Austrians and migrants, but a fight between civilisation and barbarity,” he added.
  • “Europe is in mourning. One of us has been struck by Islamist terrorism(…) France stands by Austria”, tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday night (both in French and in German), soon followed by other European leaders expressing similar feelings of solidarity.
  • France has been hit by a string of random terrorist attacks in the last two weeks, starting with the beheading of secondary school teacher Samuel Paty, who had used caricatures to illustrate a class on freedom of expression.
  • “Those who said in the last few days that it was all caused by French secularism now see that it has nothing to do with it,” said French European affairs minister Clément Beaune on Tuesday.

Read: France-Turkey row reaches new highs after Erdoğan hurls insults at Macron

The outlook: Macron had felt isolated in the last few weeks in his stance against radical Islam, with few European leaders seemingly eager to stand by him since the Paty assassination. He is likely to use the Austrian attacks as another argument to try to convince others that the problem isn’t France’s alone.

But beyond words of mutual support, there may be little more that Europeans can do to counter the terrorist threat, after the measures taken in the last five years, ever since the January, 2015 attacks at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, to better coordinate the work of intelligence agencies.

However, within the European Union, authoritarian governments such as Hungary’s are already insisting that the terrorist threat become a top European priority — as if it wasn’t already.

Read: Three dead in suspected ‘terror’ attack at French church

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