Austrian investigators will want to establish what motivated Fejzulai Kujtim to launch his attack.

Monday’s assault came amid renewed controversy in Europe over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. In 2015, terrorists attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (which had published the cartoons), killing 12 people. 

A French history teacher was murdered last month by a young Chechen in Paris after showing images of the cartoons to a class. France’s President Emmanuel Macron launched an unsparing defense of French secularism and said “the problem is Islamist separatism.”

Whether Kujtim was angered by the cartoons is at this stage unclear. He had clearly been radicalized several years ago, according to authorities. And the history of that radicalization will now be a focus of investigation.

Like many European countries, Austria experienced a surge in young radicalized Muslims trying to join ISIS in Syria between 2014 and 2017, before the terrorists’ self-declared Caliphate collapsed. Kujtim is reported to have reached as far as Turkey in his effort to join ISIS. 

According to Austria’s intelligence service, the BVT, more than 300 Austrian citizens actively participated or attempted to take part in fighting alongside extremists in Iraq and Syria. 59 were detained before they could leave Austria. 

Perhaps more strikingly, one-fifth of those who were jailed for trying to join ISIS were 21 or younger, predominantly second-generation immigrants from Chechnya, Turkey, and the Balkans. 

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