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WASHINGTON – Austrian intelligence has concluded the European country figures prominently in a five-year game plan of the Islamic State, formerly called ISIS or Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, as evidenced in the map above, said to show the group’s blueprint for expanding its self-proclaimed caliphate into Europe, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Austria has become a central hub for jihadis from Europe who want to fight in Syria. Austria’s central location also helps facilitate a diffusion of jihadis throughout Europe with a minimum of detection.
The information has appeared in an Austrian newspaper and a Gladstone Institute report which has concluded the country, in effect, has become a “springboard for global jihad.”
Jihadis already use Austria because of its direct route through the Balkan countries and into Turkey, which even now refuses to block them from entering Syria, even though Ankara belatedly has declared ISIS a terrorist group.
ISIS has begun to launch attacks on towns in southern Turkey and continues to detain Turkish diplomats it recently kidnapped when it took over Mosul in Iraq. That is despite the fact Turkey was very instrumental, along with U.S. logistical support, in backing jihadis who first fought with the Syrian opposition but then splintered off and joined ISIS.
Because it apparently has become a central European hub for jihadis, the Austrian government has begun to increase its own intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities.
“The spectrum of recruits for the conflict in Syria is ethnically diverse,” according to an Austrian intelligence agency report. “The motivation, however, appears to be uniformly jihadist.”
In addition to seeing its own Muslim youth becoming increasingly radicalized in support of ISIS, Austria became particularly concerned following the arrests of some nine Chechen jihadis who were preparing to travel from Austria to Syria using the Balkan route.
“The conflict in Syria is attracting foreign fighters from all over Europe to Austria,” according to a report from Austria’s Federal Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism.
Austrian intelligence officials say many Chechens from the predominantly Russian Muslim province have moved to Austria. Chechens are some of the most brutal jihadis currently fighting in Syria.
In time, many are expected to return to Russia, which has raised concerns with the Russian security services, since Chechens for years have launched attacks inside Russia, especially in Moscow’s subway and at its international airport.
The Austrian intelligence report said the alpine nation has become key to recruiting and organizing European jihadis who plan to travel through the Western Balkans, into Turkey and on to Syria.
The Austrian agency report said a quarter of the jihadis traveling from Austria to Syria are Austrian nationals “who have family members in Southeast Europe and the Western Balkans.”
Austrian internal security sources estimate that as many as 130 Austrian jihadis are fighting in Syria.
They are part of more than an estimated 4,000 European and American jihadis thought to be fighting in Syria and Iraq as part of the ISIS caliphate.
As WND recently reported, ISIS is providing the training and battlefield experience for European and American jihadis who return to their respective countries to launch attacks.
U.S. and European security officials are particularly concerned because they know little about the identities of most of the jihadis who could return to wage attacks in their homelands.
They also pose a serious concern for Europe and the U.S., since the jihadis hold valid passports. The U.S. also provides visa waivers to many of the European countries from which jihadis would be able to have easy access into the U.S.
F. Michael Maloof, senior staff writer for WND/ G2Bulletin, is a former security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at [email protected].