By Sherry Zhang
On November 2, a 20-year old man opened fire in central Vienna, killing four unarmed innocents and injuring 22 others. Luckily, before the man could commit any more atrocities, he was quickly shot and killed by the Austrian police. The man, identified by officials as Kujtim Fejzulai, was armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol, and a machete—a broad long-bladed knife similar to an axe. After the bloody incident, officials have uncovered that Fejzulai, who holds both Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship, once traveled to Syria and attempted to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—an extremist militant group. Punished for his attempt in joining ISIS, Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in prison. However, he was released early. Mr. Nehammer, Austria’s interior minister, claimed that Fejzulai showed good and respectful behavior and prison. Until otherwise, Mr. Nehammer defended the decision to release the young Fejzulai from jail.
After the incident, Austrian officials believed multiple gunmen were affiliated with Fejzulai. However, after further investigations, there was no evidence indicating other gunmen beside Fejzulai. Less than a day after the attack in the heart of Austria, ISIS also proudly claimed responsibility for the shooting—praising Fejzulai as an honorable “soldier of the caliphate,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group—an American non-governmental organization that monitors and translates online terrorist messaging. Although it is unclear whether or not ISIS helped Fejzulai plan the attack, the group has a tendency to claim credibility over the “brave” individuals who act on their own accord.
On Tuesday, the day after the event, Sebastian Kurz—the chancellor of Austria—addressed the country, claiming that Fejzulai was “definitely an Islamist terrorist attack.” Kurz also added, “This is no fight between Christians and Muslims, or between Austrians and migrants. This is a fight between civilization and barbarism.” Strong, the Austrians believed that an attacker will never divide their nation or destroy their democracy. On the same day, an evening memorial service was held for the victims of the shooting at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Mourning, the Austrian government issued a three-day period to grieve for and honor the victims.