Austrian authorities say they have dealt a huge blow to the recruitment network of the country's most infamous hate preacher, who targeted children including two teenagers who became "pinup poster girls" for jihad.



Schoolgirls Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, left to join ISIS in Syria in April 2014 after being recruited by hate preacher Ebu Tejma, the alias of 35-year-old Bosnian-born religious leader Mirsad Omerovic, who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence.


When the flat where he lived with his wife and seven children on benefits was raided, he was found to have a huge stash of cash and valuables hidden away that had been given to him by believers.


And now the official crackdown into his terror network has led to another 14 people being arrested in major anti-terror raids.


Some 800 police officers investigating possible members of ISIS carried out raids in Vienna and Graz, according to authorities.


The prosecutor's office of the city of Graz said: "As part of an ongoing investigation into suspected membership of a terrorist organisation a coordinated operation planned for some time took place involving 800 officers."


According to a police spokesman, eight of those arrested included three Austrians "with a migration background", two Bosnians, a Syrian, a Bulgarian and a Macedonian, all aged between 21 and 49. Among those arrested are up to three Salafist hate preachers.


A further three men and three women from the Balkans were later also arrested in Graz. Two of the women are wives of the male suspects according to the Graz prosecutors.


Austrian local media wrote that all of those arrested have links to Tejma.


According to prosecutors, he travelled all over Europe "like a pop star on a tour", being spotted driving top-of-the-range sports cars bought with the money he raised from believers.


Omerovic was convicted in July 2016 for the promotion of jihad and the recruitment of more than 160 fighters for ISIS in Syria. The prosecutor also said they had found a guide to making an explosive device on his computer.


Omerovic's speeches and aggressive songs about jihad can be found on the web. According to the prosecutor's office of the city of Graz, he even told a fellow radical in his car that "the blonde mouse, the Austrian, should be torn apart like a bag of crisps".


According to the authorities in Graz, the seven-strong family of Omerovic still lives exclusively off social welfare and the child allowances of the taxpayer, netting them 2,700 EUR (2,330 GBP) a month.


This week, Austrian investigators said they also uncovered an alleged ISIS children’s cell in the country after they detained an unnamed 12-year-old boy and arrested 17-year-old Austrian-Albanian Lorenz K. on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. He had been experimenting with gunpowder in his flat, according to reports.


Investigators spoke of more than just "stupid talk of a teenager" and said bomb plans were found too. Lorenz K. allegedly admitted to police he is a great fan of hate preacher Omerovic.


The 12-year-old boy with Macedonian roots, who under privacy laws was not named, is said to be part of the same suspected Islamic extremist network, and was detained, though not arrested, as part of an investigation into Lorenz K.


According to local media, the Austrian investigators have now linked the two with another terrorist child in Germany in what is already being dubbed as the "Islamic State children cell."


Last December, a 12-year-old German-Iraqi boy was arrested on suspicion of planning two different bomb attacks in the western German city of Ludwigshafen.


The boy is said to have first tried to target a Christmas market at the end of November, which failed as the bomb did not go off.


In December he placed a backpack containing a nail bomb near a high-rise building containing both the city hall and a shopping centre, but this time a passer-by alerted authorities to the suspicious bag.


According to judicial and police sources, the young boy had been "heavily religiously radicalised," by an unknown Islamic State agent.


The teenagers are also linked to 21-year-old German convert Kevin T., who was recently arrested in the German city of Neuss near Dusseldorf after he experimented with gun powder and is said to have planned an attack as well. Lorenz K. said they built a "test bomb" together.


KoenBerghuis's picture

Author: Koen Berghuis

Koen Berghuis is ViralTab's roving correspondent and editor of the Benelux & German desk.