Vienna police have captured a 35-year-old man accused of killing 70 people in Pakistan. Atif Z. was arrested among a group of 42 illegal migrants in Hungary, local media have reported.
Atif Z. is on Pakistan’s Most Wanted list and was detained following a tip-off in an international police operation near Boly in southern Hungary, from where he reportedly operated a people-smuggling ring.
“This case once again shows the importance of international cooperation in combating crime. I can only congratulate the Austrian investigators on this success,” said Austria’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka.
Austrian newspapers reported that the suspect was known as the Butcher of Pakistan, but added their country’s police had limited knowledge of the details of the crimes committed in his homeland.
Atif Z. now faces deportation to Pakistan. However, that process could be delayed as Vienna does not customarily return criminals who could face the death penalty in their home country, which is a distinct possibility in this case.
According to European Union’s border agency Frontex, the Western Balkan route – from Turkey, into Greece, former Yugoslavia, Hungary and onto Switzerland or Austria, then the rest of Europe – was the migrants’ preferred way of entering Europe in 2015, with over 760,000 new arrivals. After tighter policing controls were introduced at the end of that year, the numbers dropped sharply to about 120,000 in 2016.
The immigrant issue has nonetheless continued to dominate Austrian politics. Earlier this month, the conservative anti-migration politician, 31-year old Sebastian Kurz, was elected chancellor, paving the way for a ruling coalition between the center-right and the nationalist right parties.