(New York, N.Y.) – Major European cities are experiencing a wave of devastating terrorist attacks, highlighting the continuing threat extremists pose to Europe and the rest of the international community.
Vienna was the latest city targeted on the evening of November 2, when a gunman wearing a fake explosive vest and armed with an automatic rifle, a handgun, and a machete attacked the city center, including areas busy with people in bars and restaurants as well as outside the Seitenstettengasse synagogue. Police identified the assailant as 21-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual citizen Kujtim Fejzulai, who had previously been convicted for attempting to join ISIS but was released early after serving only part of his 22-month sentence. The assault, which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as “clearly an Islamic terror attack,” began the night before Austria was set to begin a new coronavirus lockdown, with bars and restaurants closing for a month at midnight. ISIS claimed responsibility the following day through its Amaq News Agency. Amaq circulated a picture of the alleged attacker, whom they called “Abu Dagnah Al-Albany.”
The Vienna attack comes on the heels of a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, on October 29 that left three dead, including one beheaded victim and another with a slit throat. The assault in Nice occurred at the hands of a Tunisian-born extremist one day after ISIS released a video titled, “Defend him [Prophet Muhammad] by striking [their] heads,” on Telegram. In the video an ISIS operative urges followers to use violence and cut off heads in revenge for the French government’s stance on allowing the publication of controversial cartoons featuring the Islamic prophet. The statement was released following French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s republication of cartoons featuring Muhammad and the October 16 attack in which an ISIS sympathizer decapitated French teacher Samuel Paty for showing the caricatures in class as part of a lesson on free speech.
France has experienced a series of deadly terrorist attacks in recent years, including the May 2019 explosion near a bakery in Lyon, the December 2018 shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, the March 2018 attack in Carcassonne, the July 2016 Bastille Day attack in Nice, the November 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, and the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks. Since 2015, more than 240 people have been killed in France by people claiming allegiance to or inspiration from ISIS, spurring France to adopt a variety of preemptive and reactive counterterrorism measures.
To read CEP’s Austria resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s France resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s ISIS resource, please click here.