VIENNA (AP) — Austria’s top security official said that five people have died — including an assailant — and 15 people were wounded in a shooting in the heart of Vienna hours before a coronavirus lockdown was to start.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told reporters yesterday that two men and two woman have died from their injuries in the attack late on Monday.
A suspected attacker, who was carrying an assault rifle and a fake suicide vest, was also shot and killed by police.
Nehammer said that initial investigations indicate the suspect who was killed had sympathised with the Islamic State (IS) group.
Police searched his apartment and other premises as well, Austrian news agency APA reported.
“We experienced an attack last night by at least one extremist terrorist,” Nehammer told reporters.
He declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
Authorities were still trying to determine whether further attackers may be on the run, he said. People in Vienna were urged to stay at home if possible yesterday and children did not have to go to school.
Among those injured in the attack was a police officer, said Nehammer. The 28-year-old officer was in the hospital but no longer in a life-threatening condition.
The shooting began shortly after 8pm on Monday as many people were enjoying a last night of open restaurants before the start of a month-long coronavirus lockdown.
“We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside at cafe in the street below his window.
“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Hofmeister said.
“All these cafes have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown,” he added.
The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three extremists’ attacks in recent weeks.
United States (US) President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday night as he prepared for his final rally ahead of Election Day, “Our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe.
“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop,” Trump added. “The US stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical extremists.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also condemned the attack.
“The extremist terror is our common enemy,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted. “The battle against these murderers and their instigators is our common fight.”
Austria’s military has provided 75 soldiers to guard key sites in Vienna, freeing up police to continue the investigation.
Germany and Hungary have offered to send tactical police units to support their Austrian colleagues. Some 1,000 police officers were in Vienna yesterday morning.