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Austrian consular protection for ISIS returnees canceled

The debate over the potential return of jihadist ISIS fighters has been raging in Europe, including Austria. Experts say that ISIS returnees may be disillusioned by their "caliphate" but still firmly believed in the jihadist cause.

Published: March 9, 2019, 12:27 pm

    On Wednesday, Austria declined appeals to take captured ISIS fighters back. The government has lifted consular protection for ISIS fighters returning to Austria after an amendment to the Consular Law to be adopted in the Council of Ministers

    Accordingly, persons would no longer have protection if they endanger public order and security. “We will therefore not retrieve these people,” Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (FPÖ) told the APA.

    Responsible for the change is actually the Foreign Ministry under the leadership of Karin Kneissl (FPÖ), which also plans further changes in the consular law. This basically regulates the protection of Austrian citizens abroad. It includes assistance and support in legal protection and emergency situations, such as repatriation to Austria.

    In the future, however, protection may be refused in certain cases. For example, those whose entry into Austria would jeopardize public order and security. “People who have joined terrorist organisations and reject the basic values ​​of Austrian society are not entitled to Austria’s help,” the government said.

    Interior Minister Kickl had already announced that ISIS terrorists and stooges, who as “ticking time bombs” constituted a danger to the population, would not be able to return to Austria.

    Two young Jihadi women who fled Austria to join ISIS have been warned they could face 15 years in jail if they return. Samra Kesinovic and Sabina Selimovic left Vienna to join the terrorists in Syria in April 2014. Both are the children of Bosnian refugees who fled to Austria in the 1990s to escape the war in their homeland.

    Sabina sent text messages to French magazine, saying: “Here I can really be free. I can practice my religion. I couldn’t do that in Vienna.” They both married and had children with ISIS fighters, as well as featuring in propaganda for the terror group – toting AK-47s while being surrounded by fighters.

    Their children will be taken into custody by the Austrian state if they decide return to the country. The pair was reported dead in December but according to local media Austrian intelligence said such reports are false.

    They were recruited by hate imam Ebu Tejma, the alias of 35-year-old Bosnian-born religious leader Mirsad Omerovic, who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Austria. He was convicted in July 2016 of recruiting more than 160 fighters for ISIS to bring down the elected Syrian government.

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