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Palestinian immigrant honoured for saving police officer during Vienna attack

Joda saved the officer despite ongoing gunshots in Vienna [Twitter]

Date of publication: 4 November, 2020

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Osama Joda, a 23-year-old Muslim immigrant, was hailed as a hero for risking his life to save a police officer during a terror attack in Vienna.
A Palestinian immigrant was praised for his role in saving the life of a police officer wounded during an Islamic State-linked terror attack in Vienna.

Osama Joda, a 23-year-old Muslim was hailed as a hero for risking his life during the horrifying ideal which saw a convicted IS supporter kill at least 4 people and injure dozens more.

Police authorities honoured the young immigrant by awarding him with an honorary medal on Tuesday.

According to local daily, Kurier, Joda was working as a fast food restaurant in the area when he rushed to help the wounded officer, despite the ringing of gunshots. 

He helped the officer hide behind a concrete block at the Schwedenplatz square where the attack took place.

He also tended to the bleeding of the policeman and helped other officers carry him to an ambulance nearby.

Two Austrian-Turkish men, Recep Tayyip Gultekin and Mikail Ozen, were also hailed by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for risking their lives to rescue a police officer and two women at the scene of the attack.

The gunman responsible for the attack in Vienna was a convicted supporter of the Islamic State (IS) group who the government says "fooled" official de-radicalisation efforts.

The 20-year-old, named as Kujtim Fejzulai, was shot dead by police and was armed with a shortened Kalashnikov, a handgun, a machete and a fake explosive belt.

According to Interior Minster Karl Nehammer, Fejzulai had dual Macedonian-Austrian nationality and had already been convicted last year of attempting to travel to Syria and trying to join IS. 

After that conviction, Fejzulai, whose name suggests he is of ethnic Albanian origin, was sentenced to 22 months in prison, but was released early on parole in December.

"The perpetrator managed to fool the justice system's de-radicalisation programme, to fool the people in it, and to get an early release through this," Nehammer said, suggesting that the attacker had made special efforts to deceive probation officers.

"Therefore there were no warning signs of his radicalisation," he added.

Justice Minister Alma Zadic said that, in line with Austrian law, Fejzulai had been paroled in December 2019 after serving two thirds of his sentence, but also put on three years' probation. 

"This enables us to continue to have an influence over the perpetrator beyond the term of their prison sentence," she said, pointing out that this would not have been the case had he simply served his full sentence which normally would have expired in July 2020.

In Fejzulai's case, he was required to report regularly to probation counsellors and the de-radicalisation programme DERAD, "which, according to our current knowledge, he did," Zadic said. 

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According to police in North Macedonia, a landlocked country in the Western Balkans, around 150 nationals travelled to fight alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria, mainly between 2012 and 2016.

Most hailed from North Macedonia's ethnic Albanian Muslim minority, who make up around a quarter of the 2.1 million population. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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