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Vienna shooting: Austria launches manhunt after deadly terror attack

The Boss 40 November 3, 2020
media captionA large-scale security operation is ongoing

Austrian police are searching for at least one suspect after a multiple gun attack in the capital, Vienna, that killed four people.

Seventeen other people have been wounded - some seriously - after gunmen opened fire at six different locations in the city centre on Monday evening.

One attacker was shot dead by police, officials said, and one was arrested.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer described the assailant killed by police as an "Islamist terrorist".

Two of those who died in the random shooting were women and two were men. One of the women was reportedly a waitress. The second woman died of her wounds in hospital overnight, reports said.

The victims were in a city centre area busy with people in bars and restaurants, near Vienna's central synagogue, but it is not yet clear if that was the target.

Seven of the wounded have life-threatening injuries, Austrian media report.

Addressing a news conference, Mr Nehammer said the heavily armed gunman killed by police was an Islamic State (IS) sympathiser and that his home had been searched and video material seized. Police tweeted that he had been wearing a fake explosive belt.

Earlier, Mr Nehammer said at least one "heavily armed and dangerous" attacker was believed to be still at large. Officials were quoted as saying there could have been as many as four attackers. The interior minister urged people to avoid central Vienna and told parents to keep their children home on Tuesday if they could.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called it a "repulsive terror attack".

It happened hours before Austria imposed new national restrictions to try to stem rising cases of coronavirus. Many people were enjoying drinks and eating out before a midnight curfew.

European leaders strongly condemned the shooting. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "deeply shocked by the terrible attacks".

Police said the incident began at about 20:00 (19:00 GMT), near the Seitenstettengasse synagogue, when a heavily armed man opened fire on people outside cafes and restaurants.

Members of the special forces quickly arrived at the scene. One policeman was shot and critically wounded before the perpetrator, who was armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a machete, was, in the chief's words "neutralised" at 20:09.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPolice increased security outside the interior ministry after the shooting

Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch said that the synagogue was closed at the time the attack began.

Footage posted on social media showed scenes of chaos as people ran through the streets with gunshots ringing out in the background.

Witness Chris Zhao was in a nearby restaurant when the shooting started.

He told the BBC: "We heard noises that sounded like firecrackers. We heard about 20 to 30 and we thought that to be actually gunfire. We saw the ambulances... lining up. There were victims. Sadly, we also saw a body lying down the street next to us."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionGuests left the Vienna State Opera under the watch of armed police

A major anti-terror operation swung into action and police set up roadblocks around the city centre. Members of the public were told to stay away from the area and not to use public transport.

Police in the neighbouring Czech Republic said they were carrying out random checks on the border with Austria in case the gunman fled in that direction.

In a post on Twitter, the Austrian chancellor said "we are experiencing difficult hours in our republic".

"Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this hideous terrorist attack. We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism," he said. He was due to speak publicly after a cabinet video conference on Tuesday morning.

Austria had until now been spared the sort of attacks that have hit other European countries. Leaders across the region were quick to condemn the shootings, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying that Europe must not "give up" in the face of attacks.

"We, the French people, share the shock and grief of the Austrian people, struck this evening by an attack in the heart of their capital, Vienna. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with," he said.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPolice stopped and searched passers-by as they looks for the suspect

The UK prime minister also said the country's "thoughts are with the people of Austria - we stand united with you against terror" while Home Secretary Priti Patel said "we stand ready to support in any way we can".

US President Donald Trump - on the campaign trail ahead of Tuesday's election - described it as "yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe".

"These evil attacks against innocent people must stop. The US stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists," he tweeted.

His Democratic challenger Joe Biden condemned the "horrific terrorist attack", adding: "We must all stand united against hate and violence."

European Council President Charles Michel called it a cowardly act that violated life and human values.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the shooting "a heinous act" and expressed "solidarity" with Austria.

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