Four killed by gunman who opened fire near synagogue and accomplice still at large
By Democrat reporter
Wearing an explosive vest, the man was shot and killed at 8.09pm by Austrian special forces after he opened fired with an AK-47 machine gun near the city’s main synagogue on Monday evening.
Before the attack, he announced on social media platform Instagram his allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.
Two other men and two women died from their injuries while Vienna’s hospital service said several people were in a life-threatening condition with gunshot wounds and cuts.
Viennese police said on Tuesday morning that they had raided addresses linked to the gunman and made several arrests. They played down reports from late on Monday night that shootings had taken place at six locations in the city, but added that an accomplice was still at large.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced three days of mourning after an “abhorrent terror attack” carried out by “very professional perpetrators”.
“We will never let ourselves be intimated by terrorism, and will decisively fight these attacks with all means,” he said.
Viennese public security director Franz Ruf said members of the public had provided 20,000 videos to police for examination. He declined to say whether the attack was motivated by Islamist extremism or by anti-Semitism.
“It is clear that this was a radicalised person, further than that, we can’t say anything as we’re still investigating.”
The shooting took place in an area near Schwedenplatz, a popular going-out quarter near the Danube Canal dubbed “Bermuda triangle” by locals. Many of the bars and restaurants were crowded with people out for one last meal before a Covid-19 lockdown came into effect on Tuesday.
On the street where the attack took place is Vienna’s main synagogue. Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community Vienna, said it was “unclear” if the synagogue and the Jewish community were targets. No events were taking place in the synagogue or in the adjoining complex and both were closed.
“The perpetrator didn’t target the city temple,” said Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister, an eyewitness. He said several gunman shot at least 100 rounds just outside the synagogue at people sitting in the street.
Footage on social media, purportedly of the attack, shows a man in a white shirt with a rifle shooting at a building. A male voice from one of the adjacent buildings can be heard shouting obscenities at the gunman.
Eyewitnesses were told to stay indoors as the shooting took place.
“We heard the shots and then it was ‘lights out, doors closed’,” said a 53-year-old Austrian tourist to the APA news agency. “Then we all lay on the ground, the fear among the guests was crazy.”
Another eyewitness told ORF television he thought it was the sound of fireworks.
“Then it was clear it was shots,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “Then there was a man running down Seitenstetten street who shot around him crazily with an automatic weapon.”
Interior minister Karl Nehammer confirmed the police were treating the shootings as a terrorist attack.
“Austria is a democracy, shaped by free speech, tolerance in living together,” he said. “The attack yesterday is an attack on these values and an inadequate attempt to divide us. We will not stand for this. There will be consequences.”
On Tuesday morning police were sealing off the area around Schwedenplatz with trams and underground trains redirected.