Austrian Cabinet agrees to broad new anti-terror measures

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BERLIN (AP) — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s Cabinet on Wednesday agreed on a wide range of anti-terrorism measures meant to plug perceived security flaws identified after a deadly attack by an Islamic extremist in Vienna last week.

The proposals include the ability to keep individuals convicted of terror offenses behind bars for life, electronic surveillance of people convicted of terror-related offenses upon release and criminalizing religiously motivated political extremism.

Kurz said the measures, which will be brought before parliament in December for a vote, take a two-pronged approach, targeting both terror suspects and also the ideology that drives them.

“We will create a criminal offense called ‘political Islam’ in order to be able to take action against those who are not terrorists themselves, but who create the breeding ground for them,” Kurz tweeted after the Cabinet meeting.

Four people were killed in the Nov. 2 attack, and the gunman also died. Twenty others, including a police officer, were wounded.

Authorities in Austria have identified the attacker as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual national of Austria and North Macedonia who had a previous conviction for trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria and had been given early release in December.

An investigation has been launched into why Austria didn’t have Fejzulai under observation despite being tipped off by Slovakian authorities that he had tried to purchase ammunition at a shop in Bratislava in July.

Included in the measures is a proposal to make it possible to strip people of Austrian citizenship if they are convicted of terror-related offenses.

Austrian authorities have said they have been working closely with the FBI on the investigation, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s office said separately that he talked Wednesday with his Austrian counterpart, offering further support from Washington for the investigation.

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