Country Report on Terrorism 2011 - Chapter 2 - Austria


Overview: Austria continued its efforts to strengthen its counterterrorism measures, and to provide its law enforcement and intelligence agencies with better tools to counter terrorism. According to Austria's Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism (BVT), the key counterterrorism agency within the Ministry of the Interior, terrorism did not pose a serious or imminent threat to Austria in 2011. Cooperation between U.S. and Austrian law enforcement agencies was generally strong. 

The pace of approving and implementing counterterrorism legislation was often slowed by concerns over data privacy protections. Counterterrorism efforts were further complicated by a general public perception that Austria is safe from terrorism. Nevertheless, the BVT said the threat from violent transnational Sunni extremism remained a concern. The BVT estimated the number of radicalized individuals among second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants and among converts to Islam in the country has risen to approximately 500.  

On January 24, two Austrian citizens were killed in a suicide attack in Russia at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. The Caucasus Emirate's leader, Doku Umarov, claimed responsibility. 

Legislation and Law Enforcement: The Ministry of the Interior reintroduced to Parliament draft legislation originally proposed in 2010 to enhance the ability of law enforcement agencies to conduct counterterrorism investigations. In October, legislation was approved that lowered the threshold for prosecution for the criminal act of expressing public support for terrorist acts or activities. In November, following concerns expressed by opposition parties, the Interior Minister temporarily withdrew from parliamentary consideration the bilateral U.S.-Austrian Preventing and Combating Serious Crime agreement for renewed review by Austria's Data Privacy Council. In December, Austria abstained in the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers' vote that approved the U.S.-EU Agreement on Passenger Name Records. 

In April, Austria passed data retention legislation in accordance with a 2006 EU counterterrorism directive. Austria is in compliance with an EU directive (in force since May) requiring a uniform biometric format for residence permits for non-EU nationals. 

Law enforcement actions: 

  • In February, Austria extradited to Belgium a Chechen resident of Austria suspected of complicity with a terrorist network that was planning attacks on North Atlantic Treaty Organization facilities in Belgium.
  • In June, a Vienna jury convicted three persons accused of involvement in the killing of Chechen exile Umar Israilov in Vienna in January 2009. Sentences handed down included life imprisonment for the principal suspect and terms of 19 and 16 years for the other suspects. The convictions were under appeal at year's end.
  • In September, the BVT disclosed arrests of a number of suspected AQ sympathizers from Austria and Germany who had been sent for training to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and then ordered back to their home countries to recruit further sympathizers. These were the first such arrests using legislation passed in 2010 and implemented in 2011. One suspect, an Austrian citizen, was arrested in Germany in May, and a suspected recruiter was arrested in Austria and extradited to Germany. 

Countering Terrorist Finance: Austria is an active member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In reaction to an October FATF statement on jurisdictions with anti-money-laundering/counterterrorism financing deficiencies, the Austrian Financial Market Authority issued a regulation mandating additional special due diligence by financial institutions doing business with FATF-designated countries.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Austria has security partnerships in place with several countries in the region and the Ministry of the Interior has dispatched counterterrorism liaison officers to a number of Austria's embassies in southeastern Europe. Austria participates in various regional security platforms, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Central European Initiative, and the Salzburg Forum. Austria provides customs administration training to Afghan customs officials under the auspices of the OSCE.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Austria continued its efforts to better integrate immigrants, particularly second- and third generation Muslim immigrant youth. Government measures included the creation of a state secretary for integration serving within the Ministry of Interior, the drafting of a national inter-ministerial integration strategy, and initiatives in educational institutions and at the community level. Beyond broad integration strategies, however, there were few specific government-sponsored efforts to counter violent extremism.