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Austrian report Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-11-16 13:07:42
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Austrian cave researchers find skeleton of skier

Geologist Georg Zagler made the grisly discovery last month while exploring the Alpine site on Untersberg peak near Salzburg. A recovery team brought out the remains on Wednesday, the Austria Press Agency reported.

At first mistaking them for animal bones, Zagler realized his error when he found two boots and parts of a ski and pole. "It was a leather shoe cobbled with nails and with thick iron spikes," probably 70 to 80 years old, APA quoted him as saying.

He suspected the skier fell around 50 meters (150 feet) to his death. Police think snowmelt and runoff then washed his bones to a depth as low as 300 meters from the cave opening. Prosecutors ordered an autopsy but it was unclear whether the victim would ever be identified, police said.

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Radical Islam in Austria is active and growing

The small Central European country of Austria has recently made headlines because of its jihadi teenagers who have gone to fight in Syria. But Austria's radical Islam problem stretches beyond the Islamic State's recruitment of young Austrian men and women. The Alpine state has become a hub of extremism that includes not only Islamic State terrorism but also Iranian nuclear proliferation activities as well as active support for Hamas. "ISIS: Austria is terror hotspot," ran the headline of an interview published in September by the Österreich newspaper's online news outlet. In April, Samra Kesinovic, 17, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, two Austrian girls who had been radicalized by a local mosque, departed to join the Islamic State in Syria. The girls left notes in their bedrooms that said "Don't look for us. We will serve Allah--and we will die for him," according to Austrian police. Regretting their decision, the girls sought in October to return to Vienna. The girls, of Bosnian background, are now believed to be in Raqqah, the Islamic State's so-called capital, in Syria. "Jihadi brides" is the term some reports have used to describe the girls' alleged status as wives of Islamic State combatants.

Then in late October, Sabina denied that she wanted to return to Austria, telling the French magazine Paris Match that she wished to stay in Syria because she feels "free" there. "[Here] I can practice my religion," and, "in Vienna I couldn't," she said. Austrian security experts believe she was strong-armed into denying that she is being held against her will. The Austrian radical Islamic preacher Mohammed Mahmoud, who has been a key figure in creating the Central European jihadist movement, is also believed to have played a crucial role in the establishment of the Islamic State. "Mohammed M. from Vienna is IS co-founder," the Vienna-based Kurier daily titled its mid-October report. The paper based its piece on a new book by Behnam Said, an expert on Islam, who noted that Mahmoud's name appears on a document urging support for the Islamic State. The Turkish government reportedly released Mahmoud from custody in August in exchange for Turkish hostages held by the Islamic State. After returning to Raqqah, Mahmoud married Ahlam Al-Nasr, the so-called "poet of Islamic State." Mahmoud had burned his Austrian passport in a public display, which was filmed and then posted on the Internet.

In an email response to a Long War Journal media query, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a spokesman for Austria's interior ministry, said that "according to current information there are approximately 150 Austrians" fighting as foreign combatants in Syria. "More than 60" Austrian fighters have returned from Syria, he said. Grundböck flatly denied that Austria is a hub of jihadist activity. In a separate case of adolescent jihadism in Vienna in late October, the Islamic State offered $25,000 to Mertkan G., a 14-year-old boy, to detonate a series of bombs in Vienna. According to Austria's largest mass circulation daily, Kronen Zeitung, Mertkan, the son of Turkish immigrants who lived in Austria for eight years, planned to bomb the Westbahnhof train station, and had downloaded instructions from the Internet on how to assemble explosives. "An attack of this kind would have ended bloodily and caused many casualties," an Austrian terrorism expert said. Mertkan, who had planned to travel to Syria to join Islamic State, is currently incarcerated. In August, Austrian authorities arrested nine Chechens, who had been granted asylum, for attempting to engage in jihad for the Islamic State in Syria. Two of the nine Chechens had tried twice to enter Syria. A 17-year-old boy and a woman are among the members of the Chechen group. "Vienna has served as the de facto base for Islamist extremists from south-eastern Europe, a place to recruit, raise and hide funds, and radicalize, thanks to Austria's permissive laws and weak enforcement mechanisms," wrote former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler, who has a deep expertise in jihadist activity in the Balkans and Austria. "It's an exceptional terrorist or Salafi radical in Bosnia who has not spent some time in Austria. It says something that the most notorious Salafi mosque in Vienna is located directly across the street from a major military base," Schindler continued.

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Austria's Muslims fear changes to historic Islam law

A row has broken out in Austria over government plans to overhaul the country's century-old law on Islam. The new draft, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamist radicalism, forbids any foreign funding. But Austria's official Islamic Community says it reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and fails to treat them equally. Islam has been an official religion in Austria since 1912. The Islam law, the "Islamgesetz", was brought in by the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph, after Austria's annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Under the law, Muslims, like Catholics, Jews and Protestants, are guaranteed wide-ranging rights, including religious education in state schools.

Carla Amina Baghajati from the Islamic Community says the old law has served as "a kind of a model in Europe" and done much to integrate and anchor Muslims into Austrian society. It shows how recognition of Islam makes Muslims feel accepted, she says. "Their loyalty towards the state comes automatically." Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria today, around 6% of the population. Many of them have Turkish or Bosnian roots.

After more than 100 years, most agree that the Islam law needs to be updated to reflect the realities of modern Austria. But some parts of the government's draft legislation have caused controversy, in particular a proposed ban on any foreign funding for mosques or imams.  The Islamic Community says that does not fit with the principle of equality. But Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz told Austrian Radio (ORF) that the ban was a necessary step. "With other religions, there is not the challenge that we have to fear influences from abroad and therefore have to be stricter with financing," he said. "We want an Austrian form of Islam. Every Muslim in Austria should be able to practise his religion properly, but we don't want influence and control from abroad."

 


         
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