Austrian police believe that a bloody feud between Balkan mafia families broke out onto the streets of Vienna on Friday, when two men were gunned down in the heart of the Austrian capital.
One man was killed and another was hospitalised with life-threatening injuries when a gunman shot them as they left a restaurant less than 200 metres from St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna’s city centre.
A third man who had been dining with the victims inside the packed schnitzel restaurant was left uninjured. Police were able to detain him at the scene and questioned him as a witness.
Panic briefly spread through the city centre as locals feared a repeat of a gun spree by an Islamist terrorist in Strasbourg earlier in the month. But police quickly announced that the crime was a targeted shooting with no connection to terror.
The hitman was able to escape and remains on the loose, as a hunt for a car seen driving away from the area proved to be a red herring. The vehicle was identified and stopped, but police say neither driver nor vehicle are linked to the crime.
On Saturday, police confirmed they were investigating a connection to “organised criminality out of the west Balkan region.” They have refused to be more specific at this stage.
Die Presse newspaper reports that the 32-year-old victim was shot in the head, indicating a targeted assassination. He is said to have been a senior figure in the Kavački Clan, a mafia organisation that has been fighting a bloody battle to control the cocaine market in Serbia and Montenegro.
Organised criminality has been a serious problem in Montenegro for years and its harbours have become significant entry points for cocaine smuggled from South America into the west European market. But violence spiked in 2018, with car bombings and shooting an increasingly regular occurrence.
Local journalists have also been threatened. In May, investigative journalist Olivera Lakić was shot in the leg after she wrote articles on the local cigarette smuggling trade.
The tiny state of 600,000 inhabitants is a candidate for EU membership, but Brussels is said to be concerned by the influence mafia groups have over politicians and police.
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