Several armed attackers opened fire in six locations in the city this Monday evening from 8 p.m. in the center of Vienna, Austria, including one close to a synagogue on Seitenstettengasse. The police have deployed in large numbers throughout the city to lead a manhunt that is not yet over. Events are still considered in progress. According to Franz Ruf, director general of public security, 150 members of the COBRA unit of the police are deployed, as well as 100 special agents of the WEGA unit. In addition, hundreds of police and plainclothes officers are also active.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned “a disgusting terrorist attack”. “We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight these attacks with all our means,” he wrote on Twitter, expressing his thoughts for “the victims, the injured and their loved ones”. The Chancellor later clarified that the attackers were “very well prepared” and “very professional” in the way they prepared their attacks.
Speaking on the ZiB Spezial TV show, quoted by Austrian news agency APA, Kurz said the attack was “definitely” terrorist in nature. The chancellor also conceded that there was no information about the motives for the attack.
Police counted a total of 6 crime scenes. Acts perpetrated by several heavily armed men. One of the attackers was shot dead by the police.
At least one suspect on the run, “heavily armed and dangerous”
Active searches were still underway shortly after 1:15 am, because “at least one suspect is still on the run,” authorities said. “We are facing a terrorist attack, with a vehemence that we have not seen in Austria for a long time,” the minister said at a press conference from Monday evening to Tuesday. He said the special police forces had succeeded in “eliminating a heavily armed terrorist”.
Minister Nehammer warned that the fleeing perpetrator (s) are “heavily armed and dangerous”. “We have assembled several special forces who are now looking for suspected terrorists,” Nehammer said.
The Minister of the Interior suggested that the perpetrators may have fled the capital and that they are “mobile”. He insisted that people remain confined to their homes until authorities report the streets are safe again. Kurz, for his part, was unable to ensure whether the Viennese were going to be able to resume normal life on Tuesday. Due to the current situation, there will be no compulsory education in Vienna on Tuesday.
A witness, interviewed on a television channel, said that he saw “a person running with an automatic weapon, who was shooting wildly”. Images of a man shooting in the middle of the street are circulating on social networks.
Police then arrived at the scene and responded, another witness reporting “at least 50 shots”.
One of the attacks was carried out not far from a synagogue, without the authorities confirming a link to the attacks. “At this stage, it is not possible to say whether the synagogue was targeted,” said Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG). The building was closed, he tweeted, noting that the gunfire took place in the immediate vicinity of the place of worship.
The Austrian press has long talked about one of the perpetrators who allegedly detonated a belt, but this element has not been confirmed. However, we learned this night via the Austrian broadcaster ORF that the demining service was trying to defuse the explosive belt of the assailant who was shot down by the police. In addition to his belt, the terrorist was heavily armed and had a lot of ammunition on him, says the ORF.
The Austrian website OE24 and the emergency services reported in the evening a toll of several deaths. The police did not confirm the information, still announcing shortly after 1 am a toll of two victims, including one of the perpetrators, and several injured. According to Gerhard Pürstl, chief of police in Vienna, a civilian was killed during these attacks. “We are mourning a dead civilian and several seriously injured,” he said at the press conference. A policeman was seriously injured and is undergoing surgery, he also said.
Authorities say at least 15 injured are being treated in hospitals and seven are in serious condition. The death toll is not yet final and unfortunately it could still change.
Large parts of the city center were blocked off by the police, who deployed all available forces on Monday evening in the streets of Vienna. The Director General of Public Security, Franz Ruf, announced “a strengthening of border controls” and the establishment of roadblocks in the city.
The Minister of the Interior relayed a call from the police to transmit to the police all images relating to the facts.
Czech police said Monday evening that they had launched border controls with Austria after the attack launched in Vienna by armed men.
“The police are carrying out checks on vehicles and passengers at border posts with Austria, as a preventive measure following the terrorist attack in Vienna,” Czech police said on Twitter.
Belgian Foreign Affairs has also advised Belgians who are currently in Austria to be careful and “follow the instructions of the local authorities”.
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