At least two people have been killed and fourteen others injured after multiple gunmen opened fire on revellers enjoying a final night before a coronavirus lockdown in Austria’s capital of Vienna.
Police said they have shot and killed one of “several suspects armed with rifles” after an initial shooting incident near a synagogue at Seitenstettengasse at about 8pm Monday (local time).
They later confirmed there were now six different shooting locations across the city in an ongoing incident that authorities believe is a terrorist attack.
The gunmen opened fire on people enjoying a last night out at Vienna’s cafes, bars and restaurants before a coronavirus lockdown to tackle a sweeping second wave of infection across Europe.
People rushed inside venues which locked their doors as gunshots rang out across the city, witnesses said.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told Austrian broadcaster ORF the government believes the incident is a terrorist attack. He said he feared further injuries and possible deaths.
“The hardest day for Austria in many years. Several injured, several dead,” he said at a press conference late on Monday, revealing at least one gunman has not been found.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said earlier several gunmen were at large. It is unclear how many gunmen there are in total.
One of the injured is a police officer, who is in a serious condition. There are unconfirmed reports that officer has since died.
According to Vienna publication Kurier, the gunman killed was not wearing an explosive belt despite earlier media reports from the newspaper and ORF that he was.
Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig said people were shot at random as they sat at bars in what he described a “shocking” attack.
He confirmed one of the victims was killed at the scene while the other, a woman, died from her injuries in hospital.
Kurier said there are reports of at least seven deaths however, it is currently unverified information. Sources have confirmed to Austrian news agency APA there are “several deaths”.
Christoph Mierau, spokesman for the Vienna Health Association, said fifteen people were being treated in hospital, seven of which have serious injuries.
CONFIRMED at the moment:
*08:00 pm: several shots fired, beginning at Seitenstettengasse
*several suspects armed with rifles
*six different shooting locations
* one deceaced person, several injured (1 officer included)
*1 suspect shot and killed by police officers #0211w
— POLIZEI WIEN (@LPDWien) November 2, 2020
An AFP photo from the scene shows police restraining a man against a retail shop’s glass doors.
Witnesses told oe24-TV there were “at least 50 shots”, while one witness told ORF they saw a gunman “shooting wildly” as they ran down a street.
Police said the operation in the centre of the city was ongoing, and urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transport.
“There are several injured persons,” police tweeted soon after the attack began.
“We are on site with all available forces. Please avoid all public squares in the city.”
People who were at hospitality venues were urged to remain inside until given the all clear by police. Several patrons were becoming restless and wanted to leave late into the night, Kurier reported.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) November 2, 2020
Initial reports a synagogue was the target of an attack couldn’t immediately be confirmed.
Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna, said the shooting took place in the street where the city’s main synagogue is located but that it wasn’t clear whether the house of worship had been targeted.
The synagogue was closed at the time of the shooting.
‘A lot of people out’ before lockdown
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told The Associated Press that he saw at least one person fire shots at people sitting outside bars in the street below his window.
“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Hofmeister said.
“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown,” he added.
“As of midnight, all bars and restaurants will be closed in Austria for the next month and a lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out.”
— Georgia_HGrabar (@GHG19hr) November 2, 2020
Video shared to Twitter from buildings above show two people hiding behind a wall before running to another location as gunfire can be heard. A police vehicle’s lights can be seen in the distance.
Another video shows a person dressed in white fire a gun along a street before running off.
Police asked for people to avoid uploading videos of any related incidents to social media.
One unverified video showed a gunman walking through a street people at random, wounding several and leaving a man unresponsive on the ground.
Austrian media reports say one of the perpetrators turned a gun on themselves.
European leaders condemn ‘disgusting’ attack
Mr Kurz labelled the incident a “disgusting terrorist attack”.
"Our police will take decisive action against the perpetrators of this disgusting terrorist attack,” he told APA.
“I am glad that our police officers have already been able to eliminate a perpetrator. We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight these attacks with all means.”
European leaders offered their support to Austria with Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez calling the incident “senseless”.
"Hate will not bend our society. Europe will withstand terrorism,” he said on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron said “we will not give in” days after a suspected terror incident in Nice that killed three people.
“We French share the shock and grief of the Austrians after an attack in their capital Vienna. After France, it is now a friendly country that is under attack. This is our Europe. Our enemies need to know who they are dealing with,” he said.
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