By Jesse Stiller
Nation and World Editor
Several European countries are raising their terrorism threat levels significantly following a string of attacks in France and Austria that have left several dead and wounded.
According to the Associated Press, on Oct. 29, a man of Tunisian origin attacked churchgoers in Nice, France, as they were worshipping, leaving three dead before being shot by police and transported to a hospital.
According to Reuters, the man wielded a knife and a copy of the Koran when he entered the church and shouted “allahu akbar,” or “god is greatest” in arabic, before beheading a woman and killing another person in the church.
The man then fled to a nearby cafe and stabbed another woman before being confronted by police, as reported by Reuters.
According to the Associated Press, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said that the attacker had reportedly arrived from Tunisia and through the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is a major hub for migrant boats arriving from Northern Africa. Tunisia has said to have opened up their own investigation into the crime “‘outside national borders.’”
The Associated Press reported that, because of the attack, the country had increased their threat level to maximum and that the number of boots on the ground to “protect schools and religious sites” would be increased from 3,000 to 7,000 soldiers.
French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly condemned the attacks, vowing that the country would “‘never give in’” to them, according to BBC. In addition, he expressed support for cartoonists in the country that published cartoon depictions of Mohammed, something that is forbidden in the Islamic religion.
A few days later, on Nov. 3, a proclaimed “ISIS sympathizer” committed a terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria that left four people dead, according to NPR.
NPR reported that the shooter, 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, who was a dual citizen of North Macedonia and Austria, had attempted to travel to Syria last year to join the Islamic State. Fejzulai was arrested and sentenced to 22 months in prison, but was released seven months later due to laws regarding prison tenures for young adults.
According to the Associated Press, the man opened fire on people who were out patronizing restaurants before a lockdown went into effect due to the coronavirus. One of the locations included a synagogue that was closed due to restrictions for the virus as well.
Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz said, according to the Associated Press, that it is possible that the attack was anti-Semitic due to the shooting taking place outside of a synagogue. Kurz further praised police for their response and echoed statements similar to Macron.
“‘We will not never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and will fight these attacks with all means,’” Kurz said.
In anticipation of potential attacks spreading across Europe, according to NBC News, the U.K. has raised their terror threat level to “severe,” which is the second-highest level. The decision, announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel, stated that it was a precautionary measure and did not indicate any imminent attack on the country.
NBC News reported that Neil Basu, the assistant commissioner of Counter Terrorism Policing in the U.K., urged the public to remain vigilant and to expect an increase in police presence in the near future.