Last updated: 2 September, 2014

Austria arrests suspected Syria-bound jihadist

A Chechen asylum seeker suspected of preparing to join Islamist guerrillas in Syria has been arrested in Austria, police said Tuesday, nearly two weeks after they detained nine others.

European countries have tightened controls over potential jihadists travelling to and from Syria and Iraq ever since Islamic State (IS) combatants overran large swaths of Iraq in June.

Alarm soared after the group released a video last month showing an IS militant with a British accent beheading kidnapped US journalist James Foley.

Austrian police said in a statement that the 29-year-old man from Russia’s troubled Chechnya province was arrested on Sunday in the northern town of Heidenreichstein and accused of belonging to a “terrorist organisation”.

He is believed to have fought in Syria last year and came to Austria in December for medical treatment and to apply for asylum. He “had concrete plans to travel back to Syria,” police spokesman Markus Haindl told AFP.

The Austrian government believes some 130 people, 40 of them Austrian nationals, have joined the jihadist forces, are heading to join, or have returned. Nine people were arrested last month.

Rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday accused IS of “systematic ethnic cleansing” in northern Iraq, saying they have carried out “war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions”.