Austria imposes five-day travel ban after Islamist group uncovered

Minister says travel ban to three major cities is needed after two regions on edge after student stabbed

Austria’s interior minister has announced a five-day travel ban for residents of three major cities on Saturday after discovering a suspected Islamist group recruiting students for jihad.

“I warn parents and students: Take precautions, if you are on the brink of a radicalisation, remove yourself from that place as soon as possible. Because a travel ban in three cities with a potential link with Salafism is a danger,” Walter Berendsen told the Austria Press Agency.

He referred to the developments in the Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg regions.

Berendsen announced the ban a day after the interior minister, Herbert Kickl, revealed that police had raided an Islamic group in Vienna, finding testimonies about radicalisation and a video describing sharia law and a German-style ban on alcohol.

An officer attends a demonstration by anti-fascist groups in Salzburg in late April. Photograph: Cornelia Schmidt/EPA

A 26-year-old man, on trial for stabbing a Muslim teacher in Salzburg’s private religion college last month, identified as Abu Qasim Mohammed, told authorities he had been recruited in the city and others have since been investigated.

Kickl told a news conference in Vienna on Friday he could not rule out that someone from his interior ministry had organised recruitment. He also conceded that it had been difficult to ascertain the intentions of a group that appeared to consist of largely untrained young people.

Kickl said the group’s existence had been noticed for a year. One member told authorities he had spent 10 days in Syria, another gave an interview that was widely read by the media on the subject and another gave testimony to authorities.

The German-born man, a teenager who had at one time been a member of the Hitler Youth and had converted to Islam shortly before the incident, pleaded not guilty. “I will fight this conviction until death,” he told the court.

Kickl said on Thursday his ministry could take measures against the Vienna-based group including withdrawing its subsidies.

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