Terrorists rain bullets across Vienna, two dead, several injured
At least two people died in Austria's capital Vienna on Monday evening after terrorists opened fire at multiple locations. 15 people, including a police officer, suffered injuries. A massive manhunt has been launched to nab the suspects; one of the gunmen is believed to have died after being shot by first responders. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the incident a "repulsive terror attack."
Gunmen walked on streets, shot people randomly
Reportedly, gunshots were first fired around 8:00 pm (local time) at a busy street in the capital. Police believe there were six shooting locations. Videos that found their way to social media showed gunmen walking the streets, shooting people randomly. "It sounded like firecrackers, then we realized it was shots," an eyewitness told public broadcaster ORF, adding that one terrorist carried an automatic weapon.
Shootings began outside main synagogue; anti-Semitism angle not ruled out
Kurz said the motive was under investigation, without dismissing the possibility that it could be an anti-Semitic attack. The shootings began just outside Vienna's main synagogue, which was closed at the time. The synagogue last came under attack on 29 August 1981, when two members of a Palestinian group tried entering the place. Two people had died back then and 21 were injured.
Austria hadn't witnessed major terrorist attacks, until now
Even when several European nations were battered by terrorism in recent years, Austria was spared the horror but Vienna's attack changes that. "We have become victims of a repulsive terror attack in the capital that is ongoing," Kurz told the press. He told ORF that the terrorists "were very well equipped with automatic weapons" and had "prepared professionally."
Police will take decisive action against perpetrators: Kurz
"I would like to thank all the emergency forces who are risking their lives for our safety, especially today. Our police will take decisive action against the perpetrators of this repulsive terrorist attack," Kurz said, praising police for shooting one of the terrorists.
Austria's minister assumes that there are several perpetrators involved
Meanwhile, Austria's Interior Minister Karl Nehammer informed several special forces units have been brought in to look for the terrorists. "I am not limiting it to an area of Vienna because these are mobile perpetrators. We believe there are several perpetrators. Unfortunately, there are also several injured, probably also dead," he said. Police repeatedly asked residents to not share footage of the attack.
Attack happened hours before Austria's lockdown was to begin
The shootings happened just hours before Austria was to go under a lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. A number of residents stepped out to enjoy the mild autumn night before rules would stop them from doing so. Julia Schrammel, who was out for dinner with three cousins, told NYT they had no clue what was going on, they just heard people screaming.
We are in shock, said one resident
Another local Farnaz Alavi said, "We are in shock. It feels like they orchestrated this attack on the last night of the lockdown when lots of people were out for maximum impact." Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister revealed, "They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building." Separately, Vienna's Mayor Michael Ludwig commented that there is a "lot to monitor."
France stands with Austria, we will not give up: Macron
As the terrible news from Austria emerged, European nations offered condolences. France's President Emmanuel Macron said, "We French share the shock and grief of the Austrian people struck this evening by an attack in the heart of their capital, Vienna." He added, "After France, a friendly country is attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with."
Germany and Italy also expressed grief
Evidently, Macron was referring to the recent incident in Nice, wherein an Islamist attacked a church, killing three. About Austria's attack, Germany's foreign ministry said, "We can't give in to hatred that is aimed at dividing our societies." "There is no room for hatred and violence in our common European home," wrote Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.