At least four civilians have been killed and 17 others injured after gunmen opened fire on several places in the heart of Vienna on Monday night, Austrian authorities said on Tuesday. An assailant was shot and killed by police, who have sealed the city in an extensive hunt for other potential suspects.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said two men and two women died from the injuries they suffered in the attack, which started shortly after 8pm on Monday near Vienna’s main synagogue, as locals enjoyed a final night out before a month-long coronavirus shutdown.
At least 17 people were also rushed to hospital for their injuries, seven of whom are in life-threatening condition, Vienna’s hospital service said.
Nehammer said initial investigations show that the suspect killed had sympathized with the Islamic State (IS) group. “We saw an attack last night from at least one Islamist terrorist,” he told a news conference. “This is a radicalized person who felt close to IS.”
He also said the suspect has been identified and was a 20-year-old dual citizen of Austria and northern Macedonia who had been convicted of attempting to travel to Syria.
On Tuesday morning, police searched the home of the slain suspect and searched several others, the Austria Press Agency (APA) reported, citing the Interior Ministry. The APA quoted police as saying that two arrests had been made in the nearby town of St. Pools.
Viennese are encouraged to stay home if possible and children did not have to go to school on Tuesday. About 1,000 police officers are deployed in the chase, and helicopters were seen flying overhead as the city was sealed. Neighboring countries have intensified border controls.
Among those injured in the attack was a police officer, Nehammer said. The 28-year-old officer was in the hospital but was no longer in a life-threatening condition.
Manhunt in progress in Vienna after ‘Islamist gunman’ kills 4, reports FRANCE 24’s Anthony Mills
To shoot people at random
Police said the shooting, which took place in six different locations, was carried out by “several suspects armed with rifles”.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said “we are the victims of a heinous terrorist attack in the federal capital”.
Unconfirmed footage posted on social media showed an armed man walking through the streets, apparently shooting at random and wounding several. It was unclear whether the person seen was the same person in each video.
Report from Vienna, FRANCE 24’s correspondent Anthony Mills said that although authorities have now identified the killed suspect, there are still many questions that remain unanswered, including the number of people involved in the attack and what the specific targets were.
“What we do not know is what the original, exact goal was. We do not know if the shooter went into the street where the synagogue is located for the purpose of attacking the synagogue – if it was symbolic, or if the location was chosen simply because it is a high density area right in the center of Vienna in the old district , densely packed with cafes, restaurants, which of course were full before a midnight lock. ”
“We do not know if there are more armed men, or armed, as a whole,” he said
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside at bars on the street under his window near the city’s largest synagogue.
“They shoot at least 100 rounds right outside our building,” Hofmeister said. “All these pillars have tables outside. This evening is the last night before the shutdown. ”
Authorities said residents have uploaded 20,000 videos of the attack to police.
The attack led to swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Islamist terror is our common enemy,” tweeted Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert. “The fight against these killers and their instigators is our common fight.”
The Austrian military has provided 75 soldiers to guard important places in Vienna and released the police to continue the investigation. Germany and Hungary have also offered to send tactical police units to support their Austrian counterparts.
( Jowharwith AP, AFP and REUTERS)