The jihadi motivated terrorist attack in Vienna on 2 November 2020 took even researchers and analysts of jihadi extremism by surprise. Jihadism in Austria has only received little attention from experts so far although the country has a long history of jihadi activities and one of the highest numbers of foreign terrorist fighters per capita in Europe. Analyzing the dynamic development of jihadi networks in Austria during the last two decades helps us to contextualize the recent attack and to understand its roots better. Additionally, such historical analysis informs the debate about whether we are dealing with a new generation of jihadis.
Already during the early 1990s, Vienna served as an important logistics hub for Islamic charities that channeled fighters, funds, and equipment to the foreign mujahideen fighting alongside regular Bosnian army units. After the Bosnian War (1992-1995), Bosnian Salafis who once immigrated as foreign workers or refugees to Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, played a crucial role in establishing Salafi enclave communities in the Bosnian countryside such as the infamous Donja Bocinja and Gornja Maoca. Commuting between the Balkans and Western Europe, they collected money among fellow brethren in the diaspora, facilitated the purchase of property and often chose these enclaves as secondary residency.