Austrian police warn of possible threat to Vienna churches

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Austrian police have warned of a possible “Islamist-motivated attack” in Vienna, targeting churches and other houses of worship.

Police in Vienna have heighted security in front of certain buildings, including churches, and increased the presence of officers in the Austrian capital.

Officers cited undisclosed information received by the country’s intelligence service.

“There is a nonspecific threat of an assault against churches,” Vienna police tweeted.

“If there is a concrete danger for the population at a concrete location, Vienna police will warn immediately via all available channels,” police added.

Later on Wednesday, Vienna police clarified in another tweet that the threat warning included not just churches but also other houses of worship.

“Our precaution measures don’t exclusively affect Christian churches, but also houses of worship of various confessions,” police tweeted. They did not specify which other religious communities could be affected.

Police spokesman Markus Dittrich told local radio station Radio Wien: “Police officers are equipped with bulletproof helmets and vests and assault rifles. They will carry out surveillance activities and also carry out checks in road traffic.”

He did not give any further details on the background of the threat but said that more police would be seen patrolling in the vicinity of churches.

A spokesman for the archdiocese of Vienna told the Associated Press that Catholic churches did not appear to be the main target.

“We do not appear to be primarily affected,” Michael Prueller said.

“While we were informed by police about the general threat, we were also told that there is no imminent danger for Catholics. So we decided to keep our churches open to the public and celebrate all church services as planned for the time being.”

Vienna’s famous St Stephen’s Cathedral was packed with believers and tourist on Wednesday.

Police called on people not to spread images or video of deployed police officers on social media.

More than half of Austria’s population is Roman Catholic, making it the country’s biggest religious denomination. There are also smaller communities of Lutheran Christians, immigrant groups that identify as Orthodox Christians, as well as Muslims and Jews.

In 2020, a man who had previously tried to join the so-called Islamic State group shot dead four people in Vienna before he was killed by police.

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