How the Viennese shooting played out: the last hours of freedom...

How the Viennese shooting played out: the last hours of freedom...
How the Viennese shooting played out: the last hours of freedom...
Monday evening in Vienna should be one last chance for freedom.

The weather was mild, and when the hours before a nationwide coronavirus curfew had largely closed the city for a month, the bars and restaurants of the “Bermuda Triangle” – a network of narrow, fashionable streets in the 1st district of the old town – closed. . were busy.

Diners and drinkers sat outside at tables enjoying one last moment of the hype before another pandemic in the middle of full winter.

Without warning, the shooting began at 8 p.m. on Seitenstettengasse, a winding cobbled boulevard one block from the Danube Canal.

“They fired at least 100 rounds directly in front of our building,” recalled Rabbi Shlomo Hofmeister after the attacks in which at least two civilians and one suspected attacker were killed. He told reporters that he had seen from his window above the main synagogue in Vienna how at least one person had shot at people sitting outside on the street.

“All of these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last night before the lockdown, ”he said. “From midnight all bars and restaurants in Austria will be closed for the next month, and many people probably wanted to use this evening to go out.”

Another witness told the Austrian public broadcaster ORF that a shooter accidentally shot at groups of people who were sitting at tables.

“It sounded like a blast, then we realized it was gunfire.”

The shooter “shot wildly with an automatic weapon” before police arrived and opened fire.

Footage allegedly showing the attack, shared by European counterterrorism officials, showed a puddle of blood at the entrance of a restaurant.

Another unconfirmed clip showed a man with a rifle, white shirt, and beige pants firing shots at a building. You can hear a male voice calling the alleged attacker from one of the buildings with “asshole, asshole”.

Shooting in Vienna: residents warned to stay at home as a city hit by terrorist attack – video

The shooting quickly spread to six different locations nearby.

At least four people were killed – one of them, an attacker who was shot in front of St. Rupert’s Church. He carried an assault rifle and small arms. His body was covered with an explosives vest and a bag of ammunition. Police later said the vest was fake.

Another 15 people were injured and taken to hospital, seven of them are said to have been critical.

“We are victims of a despicable terrorist attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing,” said Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian shortly after the exchange of fire broke out.

“One of the perpetrators has been neutralized, but several perpetrators still appear to be at large,” he said. “As far as we know, they also seem very well equipped with automatic weapons. So you were very well prepared. ”

“We were in shock”

The student Chris Zhao was in a restaurant on Seitenstettengasse when the attack took place. He told the BBC that he heard between 8 and 30 bangs sound like fireworks shortly after 8 p.m.

The manager first locked the door to the restaurant, but when he left Zhao, he said he saw several injuries and a body. “We didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “We were in shock.”

Gernot Gruber, a 25-year-old student, was trapped in the Hard Rock Cafe, less than 100 meters from the first attack outside the synagogue.

At first he thought the pony he heard outside was fireworks.

“When you hear these noises in Austria, don’t think they are gunshots, you really don’t,” he told the Guardian. The restaurant staff locked the doors and told people to move away from the windows before the special forces police entered the building and told everyone to leave the building and run towards Schwedenplatz before the first attack.

Armed police guard a shopping street in the center of Vienna

Armed police guard a shopping street in the center of Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images

Gruber said when they came out of the cafe they saw police officers on the street corners aiming their guns. When the crowd arrived at Schwedenplatz, the police asked them to raise their hands and show that they were not carrying any weapons.

“This is the first time the police have aimed their guns at me,” he said.

“I think this is an experience that almost no one who lives here has ever had before,” he said. “I have been to several countries and have heard and seen these attacks [in those countries]. But I’ve never been close to anyone. It was really scary. ”

Lea, who only gave her first name, lives in the neighboring 2nd district of Vienna. She said she usually spends evenings in the busy neighborhood where the shooter is aiming. Instead, she was home when helicopters circled overhead.

“The situation right now is really scary, my phone rings all the time because everyone is so concerned. It’s heartbreaking. Hopefully the police can find all the shooters and people won’t have to die anymore.

But she said the Viennese would “rise stronger than ever”.

“There is no place here for terrorism, either left or right or from a religious perspective. There’s a reason everyone says ‘Vienna is different’ [Vienna is different]. ”

An area secured by police officers during a terrorist attack in Vienna

An area secured by police officers during a terrorist attack in Vienna. Photo: Radovan Stoklasa / Reuters

As the night progressed, authorities looked for at least one rifleman who was still on the run, and Vienna was subjected to a new type of lockdown. Office workers were supposed to sleep overnight in their buildings while restaurants were closed and barricaded.

Visitors to the cinemas, operas and theaters were held indoors for hours before they were declared safe to go home. But public transport didn’t stop in the first district until then, and taxis wouldn’t come into the neighborhood, making the journey long and difficult for many.

The motive for the attack is still being investigated, but Kurz said it may have been an anti-Semitic attack since the shooting began in front of the Vienna City Temple synagogue. It was closed at the time.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the army was asked to guard key locations in the city when hundreds of heavily armed police officers searched for the armed men. Frequent sirens and could be heard throughout the city center.

Nehammer urged the Viennese to stay inside and avoid the city center. The schools in Vienna are closed on Tuesday.

At his early morning press conference on Tuesday, he said the attack was an attempt to “weaken or divide our democratic society” carried out by an “Islamist terrorist”.

The police briefly praised the killing of one of the suspected attackers and swore: “We will never be intimidated by terrorism and will fight these attacks with all means.”

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