Hunt for gunman after Vienna ‘terror attack’ leaves 4 dead
- Special forces hunt at least one attacker after one suspect was killed
- The location of the initial shooting was close to a major synagogue
A huge manhunt was under way on Tuesday after gunmen opened fire at multiple locations across central Vienna, killing at least four people and wounding several more in what Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as a “repulsive terror attack”.
One of the suspected killers, identified as an Islamic State group sympathiser, was shot dead by police who said they were searching for at least one more assailant still at large. The dead male attacker was wearing an explosives belt that turned out to be fake.
The attacks, in six locations including near a synagogue in the centre of the city, were carried out by “several suspects armed with rifles”, police said on Monday night.
The shooting began just hours before Austria was to reimpose a coronavirus lockdown, with people out in bars and restaurants enjoying a final night of relative freedom.
The death toll rose on Tuesday to four people, two male and two female civilians in addition to the attacker who was shot dead.
Police hunt ‘armed and dangerous’ gunmen after Vienna ‘terror attack’ kills at least 2, injures 15
Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig earlier said that 15 people had been taken to hospital, seven of them seriously wounded.
Police said an officer had also been hurt during the attacks.
The attacks started about 8pm when the first gunshots were heard in the city’s centrally located first district.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told a press conference on Tuesday that the dead attacker was “a radicalised person who felt close to IS”.
The 20-year-old had dual North Macedonian-Austrian nationality and a conviction for trying to travel to Syria. Police had used explosives to blast their way into the apartment of the dead man who had been “heavily armed”, the minister added.
He had earlier said that “according to what we currently know, there is at least one attacker who is still on the run”.
It was unclear how many assailants were involved in the assault.
Speaking to ORF, Austrian leader Kurz said the attackers were “were very well equipped with automatic weapons” and had “prepared professionally”.
He had tweeted: “Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this repulsive terror attack.
“We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight this attack with all means”.
Kurz said that while police were concentrating on the anti-terror operation, the army would take over the security of major buildings in Vienna.
Nehammer urged Vienna residents to remain in their homes and keep away from all public places or public transport. He said that children would not be expected to go to school on Tuesday.
Sirens and helicopters could be heard in the city centre as emergency services responded to the attack.
Large numbers of police were guarding an area near the city’s world-famous opera house. The location of the initial shooting was close to a major synagogue.
The president of Vienna’s Jewish community Oskar Deutsch said that shots had been fired “in the immediate vicinity” of the Stadttempel synagogue, but added that it was currently unknown whether the temple – closed at the time – had been the target of an attack.
“It sounded like firecrackers, then we realised it was shots,” said one eyewitness quoted by ORF.
A shooter had “shot wildly with an automatic weapon” before police arrived and opened fire, the witness added.
At the busy bars and restaurants, people were told to remain indoors.
“At the beginning, I thought to myself that maybe we were making an American film or that they had drunk too much,” said waiter Jimmy Eroglu, 42.
But then he heard shots. “The police came in and said, ‘you all have to stay inside because there’s a probably a dead man there’”.
Robert Schneider, who lives in central Vienna, went out and found two lasers trained on his chest.
“Hands up, take off your jacket,” officers shouted at him, the 39-year-old said. “We had seen nothing, heard nothing. We are in shock.”
Austria had until now been spared the sort of major attacks that have hit other European countries.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has seen two serious attacks recently, tweeted that “we French share the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people”.
“After France, it’s a friendly nation that has been attacked,” he added, referring to the killing on Thursday of three people by an attacker in the southern city of Nice after the beheading of a schoolteacher by a suspected Islamist outside Paris on October 16.
Other world leaders voiced their condemnation on Tuesday.
“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop. The US stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists,” said US President Donald Trump.
The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell called it “a cowardly act of violence and hate”.
“Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values. My thoughts are with the victims and the people of #Vienna in the wake of tonight’s horrific attack. We stand with Austria,” said European Council chief Charles Michel.
The German foreign ministry tweeted that Germany would not “give in to hate that is supposed to divide our societies”, calling the attack “horrifying and disturbing”. German police said they had stepped up checks on the border with Austria.
“The fight against these assassins and those who instigate them is our common struggle,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “strongly condemned the cruel and cynical crime which once again confirmed the inhumane nature of terrorism”, the Kremlin said.
In a telegram to Austrian leaders he “expressed confidence that forces of terror will not be able to threaten anyone or sow discord and enmity among people of different religions”.
Iran’s foreign ministry said: “Terrorism is reprehensible in all its forms, and the regrettable act perpetrated in Vienna demonstrates once again that terrorism and extremism know no borders.
“Substituting reason and intelligence for hatred and provocation creates a vicious circle that fosters an atmosphere that fuels the spread of extremist and violent tendencies.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “deeply shocked and saddened by the dastardly terror attacks in Vienna”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “deeply shocked” and that the “UK’s thoughts are with the people of Austria – we stand united with you against terror”.