A Tunisian man who admitted to killing an elderly couple in Austria turned out to be a “radicalized Muslim,” the interior minister says. The murders could mark the first Islamist attack in Austria.
“It turns out that the suspect is obviously a radicalized Muslim who has murdered two people,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said at a press conference on Wednesday, as cited by ORF radio, Reuters reports. “For this reason I am talking about a murder case which clearly has an Islamist background.”
Last week a Tunisian immigrant turned himself in to police, confessing he had killed a married couple in the city of Linz. An 85-year-old woman had her throat slit with a knife, while her husband, 87, was stabbed and beaten to death. The alleged perpetrator, named as Mohammed H. by local media, also set fire to the couple’s house.
Initially, the 54-year-old suspect was reported to have acted out of “hatred and political motives,” since the couple’s son was an active member of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO).
“He said he committed the murders for political motives and out of hatred of the FPO,” a police spokesman said.
However, following the search at the suspect’s home and assessing his social networks, the investigation took a different turn, the minister said, refusing to give further details.
The Tunisian is said to have acted alone, according to Profil weekly citing the region’s police chief, Andreas Pilsl.
The suspect, who has resided in Upper Austria since 1989, knew the victims and delivered groceries to them from his wife’s store. The pair reportedly developed “a friendly relationship” with their alleged killer.
The FPO party accused security forces of failing to prevent the murder, with the head of the FPO in Upper Austria Manfred Haimbuchner saying the Tunisian had been known to authorities.
However, “nothing was found that could indicate a radicalization,” Pilsl commented on intelligence services looking into the suspect after an anonymous heads-up in 2015.
“We obviously have more integration problems in Austria than we thought,” Deputy State Governor of Upper Austria Thomas Stelzer said, adding that the atrocity “will not shatter our democratic principles.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor of Austria Christian Kern urged security services to “immediately” determine “where similar risks exist and how to combat them.”