Terror Arrests in Vienna Austria's 'Jihad by Telecommute'

By Yassin Musharbash

Part 2: Home-Made al-Qaida Propaganda


The threatening video from March 11 was uniquely worrying enough to bring about an emergency indictment, according to officials in Vienna. Unlike the group's other terrorist propaganda, which was merely distributed, the group is thought to have been directly involved with producing the March 11 video. On the same day that the video was made available online, an anonymous source alleging to be part of GIMF told SPIEGEL ONLINE in an e-mail message: "Yes, this message was from the GIMF, but not just from its German division."

It was as a result of one slip-up that investigators were put on the apparently right trail. In his speech in Arabic, the speaker in the video spoke angrily and at length about domestic politics in Austria. He accused the government of having broken its promise by introducing student fees -- a clear indication of the speaker's everyday concerns.

Like its English- and Arabic-language forerunners, the German-language GIMF is part of a phenomenon that originated right after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan began: al-Qaida sympathizers began to affiliate themselves with members of the network. No longer were they merely observers; now, they could -- when they wanted to -- be global players on the field of cyber-jihadism, who could use their threats to scare the world into a state of fear and anxiety without having to go to Afghanistan or build bombs. "If the Americans think that they can treat and rule over the Internet as if it were their own property, we turn the spell back on the magician," proclaimed the international GIMF leadership in fall 2005 in a communication obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE.

A New Type of Activist

In the meantime, these activists for al-Qaida & Co. have become just as important as the terrorists themselves due to the success they have had in radicalizing others with their Internet offerings. The GIMF has an aggregating function with the terrorist material in that they "re-format and alter (it) to make it more attractive," writes the Norwegian terror expert Brynjar Lia in a recent edition of the security and intelligence magazine Jane's.

Despite this cooperative effort, the GIMF organization would seem to be proud of its independence from al-Qaida. Last year, it declared: "The GIMF is an Islamic media source on the Internet. It is an ambassador for the mujahedeen (SP)…The GIMF belongs to no one. It is the property of all Muslims." Nor has the German-language GIMF ever represented itself as being part of al-Qaida.

It is reasonable to believe that the GIMF activists did not expect to be arrested. After their Web sites went down last August for a short period, they wrote: "We were there and we will also remain."

To some extent, this might be true because it is almost certain that the three people arrested were not the only people involved in the project. It should become apparent in the days to come whether those who were not arrested plan to take the reigns of the organization.

A Hot Topic inAustria

The arrests take place in Austria in a climate of anxiety about integration and terrorism fuelled by successful and frustrated terror attacks throughout Europe and most recently in Germany, where three men were arrested for allegedly obtaining the materials necessary to bomb various targets related to US military forces stationed there.

For their part, Austrians are worried about whether or not they can successfully integrate the 400,000 Muslims residing in the country. Ariel Muzicant, the head of Vienna's Jewish community, warned on Wednesday that the number of al-Qaida sympathizers in Austria has seen "massive growth" in recent months. A planned mosque in the state of Carinthia may be blocked if far-right politician Jörg Haider, the state's governor, is successful in his attempt to get the permits revoked by changing building laws, claiming that the mosque would disturb the "image of the place" and that "Western culture must be protected."

With reporting by Marion Kraske in Vienna.

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