3 Arrested in Austria Linked to Video Threat by Islamic Militants

Two men and a woman with suspected contacts to al-Qaida were arrested Wednesday in connection with an online video threat against Austria and Germany in March, officials said.

Interior Minister Guenther Platter said all three were second-generation Austrian citizens with Arab origins. He said they were believed to have contacts to al-Qaida but offered no details, saying he did not want to prejudice investigations.

"At no point was a threat against Austria discernible," Platter told reporters. Erik Buxbaum, the nation's general manager for public security, said: "We had no indication that a concrete terror attack in Austria or elsewhere with participation of these people was planned." Buxbaum added that no further arrests were expected.

Platter said two of the three, all Vienna residents, were a couple. Platter said one of the men is suspected of being the creator of the video, adding that the other man was suspected of contributing to it. House searches were continuing and a confiscated laptop computer was being checked, he added. The three suspects are being interviewed, he said. The arrests were made around noon on Wednesday after a bugging operation, Platter said.

"The international trend that al-Qaida is developing from an attack organization to a strategic terror network can be confirmed," Platter said.

Last week, Germany arrested three alleged Islamic radicals who are believed to have undergone training in Pakistan . The three were arrested on suspicion of planning to bomb U.S. and other facilities in Germany . Platter said there were no connections between Wednesday's arrests and the recent developments in Germany .

Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said the arrests occurred before noon Wednesday in Vienna , but declined to specify where in the Austrian capital. All three suspects were unemployed and in their 20s, he said, adding that the woman in the trio is believed to have acted as the translator. He added that authorities had monitored the suspects for months but acted today because it was suspected that they were planning to leave the country.

Austrian broadcaster ORF, citing unnamed sources, reported Wednesday evening that the prime suspect is believed to have spent time in training camps. Gollia could not immediately be reached for comment on that report. A statement posted on the Interior Ministry Web site said only that the prime suspect had regular contact with people, both in Austria and abroad, who could be classified as "radical."

In a Web statement that surfaced in March, Islamic militants threatened to attack Germany and Austria unless the two nations broke ranks with the U.S. and withdrew their personnel from Afghanistan .

In the online video, an unidentified speaker, whose face was blurred, said about 2,750 German soldiers in Afghanistan will "not be safe from attacks" by the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters there. He also threatened that the militants will carry out attacks in Austria and against Austrian personnel in Afghanistan .

" Austria has always been one of the safest countries in Europe depending on tourism both in summer and winter," the unidentified speaker said. "But if it doesn't withdraw its troops from Afghanistan , it may be among targeted nations."

The tape also featured a portion of an old video of al-Qaida's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, threatening Western countries with attacks.

Germany has no troops in Iraq , but it does have troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan , most of them in the north of the country.

Austria also has no troops in Iraq and has just four officers in Afghanistan .

Anas Schakfeh, the head of Austria 's Islamic community, welcomed Wednesday's arrests.

In comments cited by the Austria Press Agency, Schakfeh said he did not see an elevated terror risk in Austria . Earlier Wednesday, Ariel Muzicant, the head of Vienna 's Jewish Community, had warned of increased recruiting by extremists in Austria .

"We shouldn't have any illusions; we're not an island," Muzicant told reporters.