February 26. 2024. 5:01

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Multi-day terror warning grips Vienna

Security service warnings against attacks on Syrian-linked institutions have kept Viennese wide awake for multiple days in a row, and while the threat appears to have passed, experts have voiced discontent with the police’s communication strategy.

In 2020, Vienna was the victim of a terrorist attack when a gunman started shooting wildly in the city centre. While 23 were injured, none died.

Early on Wednesday, police warned of “increased numbers of police forces with special equipment,” citing an “unspecified threat of attack against churches.” The officers patrolled the city and randomly searched passersby.

Later, Vienna’s police department updated the population as to the nature of the situation.

“A new evaluation of the circumstances by our intelligence services concluded that primarily Syrian objects and organisations are affected by the threat,” the police tweeted, adding that this was due to the “anniversary of the start of the Syrian civil war.”

It was only late on Thursday night that the warning was rescinded. “[O]ur enhanced security measures can be reduced gradually,” the police department said, citing an assessment by security services.

The multi-day incident has had its fair share of criticism.

“Putting people in a panic without any request attached to it does not make sense,” tweeted the security expert Peter R. Neumann.

Nicolas Stockhammer, an expert from the University of Krems, echoed his sentiment and welcomed the fact police kept people informed.

However, “if the information about a police operation remains imprecise and diffuse, the sovereignty of interpretation is left to other authorities,” he told Der Standard.

(Nikolaus J. Kurmayer | EURACTIV.de)