Austria detains suspected extremists amid security fears

Austria on Sunday said three people were detained for suspected involvement in an “extremist network,” as Vienna and Cologne step up police controls citing heightened security concerns during Christmas.

German police are carrying out strict controls at the entry of the cathedral in the western city of Cologne following a “danger warning” for New Year’s Eve.

Austrian police have also stepped up checks, especially around churches, religious events and Christmas markets in Vienna, citing an “increased risk.”

Austrian authorities “intervening in an extremist network” made four arrests Saturday, the interior ministry said Sunday.

A ministry spokesman said of the four, three had been detained pending further investigations.

“There was no immediate threat of an attack in Vienna,” he told AFP, declining to comment further.

According to the German daily Bild, one arrest was also made in Germany.

The arrested suspects are said to be Tajiks who allegedly wanted to carry out attacks for ISIS in Khorasan Province (ISIS–K), an ISIS offshoot in Afghanistan, Bild reported.

“Terrorist actors across Europe are calling for attacks on Christian events — especially around December 24th,” Vienna police said in a statement.

Besides Austria and Germany, Spain also received indications that a terrorist group was planning several attacks in Europe, possibly on New Year’s Eve and Christmas, Bild said.

According to the newspaper, the targets of these attacks could be Christmas masses in Cologne, Vienna and Madrid.

In July, a cell of suspected extremists from (ISIS–K) was dismantled in Germany and the Netherlands.

Those arrested in Germany were said at the time to have been planning an attack in the country.

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