Multiple gunmen have opened fire in a busy part of central Vienna leaving at least two people dead and several others wounded in an attack Austria described as a “repulsive terrorist attack”.
According to Vienna Mayor, Michael Ludwig, one suspect has been killed by police forces and at least one of the gunmen was still on the run.
The attack began when several men armed with rifles begun shooting, starting outside the city’s main synagogue, as many people took advantage of the last evening before a nationwide curfew took effect because of COVID-19.
The police said shots were fired in “six different locations”.
A large police operation is still ongoing, and authorities urged residents to stay away from the city centre, and not to use public transport. Officials said schools will also be closed.
Frequent sirens and helicopters could be heard as emergency services responded to the shootings, with a large area of central Vienna was cordoned off.
Vienna’s mayor also stated that at least 15 people were taken to hospital, including one police officer. Seven of the victims were seriously wounded,
“We are experiencing difficult hours in our republic,” Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter, adding that the army would protect sites in the capital so the police could focus on anti-terror operations.
“Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this repulsive terror attack,” he said. “We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight this attack with all means”.
Mr Kurz added that the assailants, were “very well prepared” and “very well equipped, with automatic weapons”.
Austria’s interior minister, Karl Nehammer, called the incident “an apparent terror attack”.
“We have brought several special forces units together that are now searching for the presumed terrorists. I am therefore not limiting it to an area of Vienna, because these are mobile perpetrators,” he told reporters.
At least one of the assailants was “still on the run,” Nehammer added.
Bars and restaurants were packed with customers at the time of the shooting.
Eveline, a witness, described the moment people started to run after hearing gun shots.
“Suddenly the shooting started, at first we did not know what it was … Then there was shooting again, but closer, so we started to run away,” she told reporters.
“Because we did not know if we were running in the right direction, we ran into a hotel and hid there.”
Many European leaders have taken to social media to express their shock at the shootings.
French President, Emmanuel Macron tweeted stating France “shared the shock and grief of the Austrian people … This is Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will never give up.”
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said he was “deeply shocked” at the attacks, and said Britain stood united with Austria, a sentiment echoed by Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and with the Austrian government in dealing with this heinous act,” Rutte wrote on Twitter.
Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte and EU Council chief Charles Michel also “strongly condemned” the attacks.
Germany’s foreign ministry tweeted that the reports from Austria were “horrifying and disturbing”.
“We can’t give in to hatred that is aimed at dividing our societies,” the ministry added.
Czech police said they were conducting checks on the border with Austria.
“Police are carrying out random checks of vehicles and passengers on border crossings with Austria as a preventive measure in relation to the terror attack in Vienna,” Czech police tweeted.
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