The gunman who killed four people in Vienna on Monday night visited his ancestral home, the tiny mountainous village of Cellopek in the western part of North Macedonia, every year, his grandfather told a local television channel.
The family of Kujtim Fejzulai, the 20-year-old jihadist killed by the police after his rampage through the Austrian capital, lived in a house behind a rusty green gate in the village with several mosques before moving to Austria in 2000.
Fejzulai was born in Vienna. He had Austrian and North Macedonian nationality.
In an interview with North Macedonia’s Albanian-language Klan Macedonia TV, a man identified as Fejzuali’s grandfather said his grandson visited every year.
An Islamic cleric from the village, Nuri Ganii told Reuters, “I know his family and here everyone speaks well about the family … only today we have learned that a person (from that family) was involved in terrorism. I want to say that terrorism has no link to Islam.”
Another villager, Fadil Limany said, “I only know good things of his parents and his family. He was born there and lived there [Austria]… he is from a good family. How it cam to his mind I don’t know.”
North Macedonia’s interior ministry said three people who were involved in the Vienna attacks had dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship. All three were born in Austria, the ministry said in a statement, naming them only by initials.
Whether anyone else was involved in carrying out or preparing the attack besides Fejzulai remains unclear. Austrian police have made 14 arrests in 18 raids since Monday night.
North Macedonia, the only former Yugoslav republic to secede peacefully when the federation violently collapsed in 1990s, was brought from the brink of the civil war by NATO and the EU in 2001. The majority of its population of 2 million is Orthodox Christian, with Muslims, mainly ethnic Albanians, accounting for around 35 percent of the total population.
Authorities in the former Yugoslav republic estimate as many as 150 of its citizens have fought alongside Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Fejzulai, was released from jail less than a year ago, after serving about eight months of a 22-month sentence for seeking to travel to Syria to join Islamic State.
On Sept 1, Police in North Macedonia arrested three men on suspicion of planning attacks in the country and seized weapons, ammunition, explosive-laden vests and an Islamic State flag.
Some 13 people, including a Muslim cleric, have been jailed in North Macedonia in recent years for fighting alongside the Islamic militants in Syria and recruiting fighters.