It is not a club that anyone would willingly want to join, and Austria certainly didn’t apply for membership.
However the Danube state, which had been spared until now, recently joined the growing fraternity of European countries to experience a murderous jihad attack, whose depth of savagery and hatred has left the country deeply shaken.
The latest “victory” for the establishment of the worldwide caliphate took place June 30 in Linz, the country’s third largest city. Besides being Austria’s first such killings, the double murder stood out for its incredible cruelty, the victims’ age, and possible political motivation.
The jihadist-killer, a 54-year-old Tunisian immigrant identified only as Mohamed H., a resident of Austria since 1989, first slit the throat of Hildegard Sch., 85, and then stabbed and beat her husband, Siegfried, 87, to death in their home.
Before leaving, the “holy warrior” then burned the dead couple’s residence down over them. Firemen discovered the murder victims’ bodies when extinguishing the blaze.
“This man caused a bloodbath in the apartment – this was obviously a proxy war,” said the couple’s son, who was not identified.
After the killings, Mohamed H. told police he considered drowning himself in the Danube but decided to give himself up instead. He then went to the police station where he said he waited his turn to report the double murder.
Mohamed H. gained entrance to the old couple’s home because he regularly delivered groceries there from his wife’s vegetable store.
The Tunisian was so well known to the elderly Austrians, and relations so friendly, that the couple had given Mohamed’s daughter, and only child, $225 as a high school graduation present.
But on the day of their deaths, the couple’s friendly deliveryman arrived not only with their groceries, but also with “a belt, a wooden stick, a knife, as well as a can of gas” hidden under his apron. Police called the murders “carefully planned.”
Tragically, what the elderly couple did not know was that behind Mohamed M.’s familiar, amiable smile now lurked a jihadist killer who had sworn loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) and its leader, al-Baghdadi. The Tunisian had “praised… diverse IS horrors” on social media, exhibiting a radicalization trend “right up to the last entry,” although there is no evidence he ever fought for the terrorist entity.
One newspaper report states residents in his neighborhood remember him wearing a head covering, kaftan and beard before he went back to Tunisia in 2014, where, authorities believe, he was radicalized. He returned in 2015, clean-shaven and wearing Western clothes but noticeably more “difficult and aggressive.”
Several reasons have been offered as to why Mohamed M. chose the elderly couple as his target in Europe’s latest jihad attack.
One is that the murderer believed the elderly pair, besides being defenseless, were supporters of the anti-migrant Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), which had almost won the last federal election.
“The police say in the past years he settled more and more into the role of victim,” the newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, stated. “As a Muslim and foreigner, he felt discriminated against and blamed the FPO.”
The couple’s son believes he may also have been a target for the Tunisian’s homicidal rage. Although he never personally knew his parents’ murderer, he is a lawyer for the FPO, which currently rules Upper Austria, the province containing Linz.
“He had asked my mother whether I could come for a talk with him in my parents’ apartment,” said the son. “Obviously, he definitely wanted me there.”
The head of Upper Austria’s FPO government, Manfred Heimbuchner, believes the murders were political and that the son was certainly a target.
“This deals with a politically motivated murder…,” said Heimbuchner. “One must imagine. The criminal murdered the couple because they had at home a photo of their son with me. That is just insanity!”
Heimbuchner also confirmed the murdered couple did not have a close relationship with party; and the son was not a party follower.
One report suggested Mohamed H.’s targeting alleged FPO supporters may have had more prosaic reason than immigration policies. In 2012, a FPO party representative had reported the Tunisian to police for cruelty to animals. He was later convicted on the charge.
But while political motivations may, or may not, have formed in whole or in part the reasons for Mohamed H.’s murders, they do not account for his actions’ sheer savagery. To understand this, one has to understand how Islam’s” holy warriors” view the conduct of jihad itself, whose precepts Mohamed H., as a sworn jihadist, would have been following.
These are probably best summed by Pakistani Brigadier General S. K.. Malik in his book, The Quranic Concept of War, whose forward was written by a Pakistani former chief of army staff and president of Pakistan, General Zia-Ul-Haq.
“The Koranic military strategy,” Malik writes, “thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy…In war, our main objective is the opponent’s heart or soul…”
Mohamed H’s slaughter of the helpless, old couple follows this strategy perfectly. It shook Austria to its very core.
Many Austrians, such as one provincial parliamentarian for Upper Austria, are bewildered as to “why a man we took into our country 30 years ago develops a hatred of this kind for our society and sympathy for the IS.”
Journalist Ani Cyrus, a former Iranian Muslim, may have answered this in her recent video, “Non-Devout Muslims and the Threat They Pose” (see video here). In it, she blames the Koran for apparently “friendly Muslims that seem to be your lovely, caring neighbor” becoming heartless killers.
“The toolbox of the Koran is giving you enough tools that when it is convenient for them to use them, well, it’s party time!” said Cyrus. “You’re talking about a book that freely allows the followers of it to kill.”
Besides the bloody murders, what has also angered Austrians, as well as other people in Europe, is the behavior of their security authorities and politicians after the fact.
In what has become almost standard practice, the police immediately denied the slaughter in Linz had an “Islamic background” - until overwhelming evidence was soon produced showing otherwise.
Security authorities also said they did not know anything about Mohamed H. and his radicalization. That he was unknown to them.
Again, another false statement. An Austrian newspaper quickly found a neighbor who had reported the Tunisian as a possible “IS sleeper” two years earlier to a government office combating National Socialist (Nazi) activities. (A name change is perhaps in order here. The office’s title should also include Islamo-Fascism.)
Authorities then questioned Mohamed H., but classified him as “non-dangerous.” Police say this was due to “a clerical error.”
Fourteen suspected Islamic radicals were arrested in Vienna and Graz last January. At least one other Islamic attack was also foiled this year. And with an estimated 300 Austrians currently fighting for the IS with a right to return home, Austria will not be able to resign from its new club any time soon.