Eight arrested in Austria over alleged Islamic State links

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Austrian authorities have arrested eight people on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organisation over possible connections to Islamic State.

A statement from the public prosecutor in the city of Graz said the suspects were arrested after raids on several residences in Graz and Vienna.

The eight are suspected of “participation in a terrorist organisation (IS).” It said 800 police officers were involved in the operation.

The raids come less than a week after police in Vienna detained a 17-year-old they describe as belonging to “radical Salafist” circles who they said has confessed to experimenting with building a bomb.

But prosecutors said Thursday’s raids had been planned for “a longer time”, suggesting no immediate link.

The raid appears to be connected to investigations of followers of a Serbian-born Islamic cleric sentenced to 20 years in prison last year in Graz for recruiting dozens of young men to fight for IS.

The 35-year old preacher has been identified only as Mirsad O, also going by the alias of Abu Tejma, in accordance with Austrian privacy laws.

The cleric, who was also found guilty of inciting others to murder and of coercion, had denied all charges.

Interior ministry figures show that approximately 300 people have left or tried to leave Austria to fight for radical groups in the Middle East since 2012.

Of these, 90 have returned while 50 are listed as having been killed in fighting.

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