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VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s domestic intelligence service has narrowed down primarily to Syria-related locations the threat of an Islamist attack in Vienna that was made public on Wednesday, the city’s police said on Thursday.

The police took the unusual step on Wednesday of warning the public on social media that it was stepping up armed patrols at places of worship and other sensitive sites because the Directorate for State Protection and Intelligence (DSN) had information suggesting an Islamist attack was being prepared.

“A new threat assessment by the (DSN) … has found that this primarily concerns Syrian institutions, particularly due to the anniversary of the civil war in Syria,” Vienna police said on Twitter on Thursday, later adding in an English translation that the anniversary was on Wednesday.

The police would remain in contact with the relevant institutions, it said, without naming them.

The police provided little further information after a series of tweets announcing the threat on Wednesday morning. There was little change to normal life on the tourist-filled streets of central Vienna, with a heavier police presence at sites such as St Stephen’s Cathedral barely noticeable.

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Vienna often tops rankings of cities with the highest quality of life and it is among the safest capitals in the world. Militant attacks are rare. The first deadly attack in a generation took place in 2020 when a jihadist gunman killed four people in a shooting rampage before being shot dead by police.

After the attack Austria admitted intelligence failures such as fumbling information that the attacker had tried to buy ammunition in neighbouring Slovakia. Those failures led to an overhaul of domestic intelligence and the creation of the DSN.

Karl Nehammer, the conservative who was interior minister at the time of the attack, is now chancellor. He blamed his predecessor as interior minister, Herbert Kickl, now leader of the far-right Freedom Party, for weakening the ministry and its intelligence operations. Kickl denied the accusation.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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