The Islamic State gunman who murdered four people and injured 22 in a terror attack in Vienna on Monday was caught trying to buy ammunition in the summer, officials have admitted.
Kujtim Fejzulai was not under surveillance despite having been released from jail only last December for attempting to join Isil. He had succeeded in convincing the authorities that he had been deradicalised, according to Karl Nehammer, the Austrian interior minister.
It has now emerged that police in neighbouring Slovakia notified the Austrian authorities that he had been caught trying to buy ammunition there in July.
Slovakia is known as one of the easier places in Europe to buy weapons. Two of the gunmen who carried out the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris obtained assault rifles there.
But the country has tightened gun controls since then and Fejzulai was refused ammunition because he did not have a valid gun license. He travelled there with another man in a car registered to the mother of another known Islamist.
Mr Nehammer told a press conference the warning from Slovakia had been investigated by Austria’s BVT domestic intelligence agency. He put the fact it was not acted on further down to a “failure of communication” and pledged to set up an independent inquiry.
The Austrian government is under pressure over the failure to identify Fejzulai as a threat. He was jailed for 22 months in 2018 after being caught by police in Turkey attempting to enter Syria in order to join Isil, which has claimed responsibility for the attack.
But Fejzulai was released last December after serving only seven and a half months of his sentence, and he was not placed under surveillance.
Mr Nehammer claimed he had “fooled the deradicalisation progamme completely”. But a spokesman for Derad, the Austrian deradicalisation programme, denied on Wednesday that it had ever given him a clean bill of health.
A far-Right Austrian politician alleged on Wednesday Fejzulai was in fact under surveillance and claimed a blunder by Austrian intelligence services may have spurred him into carrying out his attack.
Herbert Kickl of the far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ), a former interior minister who oversaw the domestic intelligence service, claimed Fejzulai may have become aware he was being monitored under two covert operations against Islamic extremists in Vienna and nearby St Pölten.
Fourteen people were arrested and 18 properties were searched in Vienna and St Pölten following the attacks.
Mr Nehammer denied the allegations. Mr Kickl’s time in office was marked by his open hostility to the intelligence service.
Police believe Fejzulai carried out the attack alone but suspect he may have had assistance in planning it. Those being held reportedly include a man who attempted to travel to Afghanistan with Fejzulai to join Isil forces there in 2018. The two men were unable to travel because they could not secure Afghan visas.
Two men have been arrested in the Swiss town of Winterthur in connection with the case. Fejzulai reportedly travelled to Switzerland to meet with them at some point prior to the attack.
Details began to emerge of the victims on Wednesday. One was named as Nedzip Vrenezi, 21, a member of the same Albanian immigrant community from North Macedonia as Fejzulai. There is no indication the two men knew each other.
The other victims have not been named but are understood to include a 24-year-old German art student who was working as a waitress at the time of the attack.
They also include a 44-year-old Austrian woman and a 39-year-old Austrian man who was shot dead while standing outside a fast food restaurant.
Earlier reports that an elderly couple were among the dead proved false.
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