Austria wants to tap Islamists' messenger apps amid Europe terrorism fears

Germany and Austria arrest a group of people from Tajikistan over warnings of a New Year's Eve attack

Police in Austria are on high alert over fears of a New Year's Eve terrorist attack. AFP
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Austria's interior minister is calling for the security services to be given access to suspects' messenger apps in an attempt to thwart terrorist attacks.

The comes after five people from Tajikistan were arrested in Austria and Germany with European nations on high alert over threats of a New Year's Eve terrorist attack.

Gerhard Karner said the number of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents has increased since the Gaza conflict began.

He told local media that to be able to combat the terrorist threat, the executive branch of the security services needed access to messenger services .

"Since the terrorists use the most modern methods, this should also be possible for the Austrian security forces," he said.

He said some of the plots had been uncovered only with the help of international partners.

"Terrorist actors across Europe are calling for attacks on Christian events," Vienna police said in a statement.

The suspects arrested in Austria and Germany are said to be Tajiks who allegedly wanted to carry out attacks for ISIS.

"Our security authorities have their sights on the Islamist scene and are acting decisively as the current measures show," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.

Besides Austria and Germany, Spain also received indications that an Islamist group was planning several attacks in Europe, possibly on New Year's Eve.

It is believed the targets could be churches holding Christmas masses in Cologne, Vienna and Madrid.

Earlier this month Ian McCary, the US deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said that the terrorist group was using the war in Gaza to gain international traction.

“We do believe that ISIS is seeking opportunities to exploit the ... conflict between Israel and Hamas for its own purposes … we're determined that we're going to remain steadfast in our operations to defeat [ISIS],” he said.

Updated: December 27, 2023, 2:53 PM