A terror attack in central Vienna has left five people dead, with at least one gunman remaining on the run, Austria’s Interior Minister says.
- The shooting took place near Vienna’s main synagogue
- Austrian police said attackers opened fire with rifles
- Four bystanders were killed in the terrorist incident plus one of the attackers
Another 15 people were injured, including a police officer, during the incident in the Austrian capital on Monday night.
Among the five confirmed dead was one of the armed attackers, shot by police, whom Interior Minister Karl Nehammer described as an “Islamic State sympathiser”.
Vienna Police said the suspect was wearing what appeared to be an explosive vest, but it turned out to be fake.
“We experienced an attack yesterday evening from at least one Islamist terrorist,” Mr Nehammer said.
Authorities said offenders armed with automatic rifles fired shots from six locations near the Seitenstettengasse synagogue about 8:00pm Monday local time.
Unverified footage posted on social media shows gunmen walking through the streets of Vienna, apparently shooting at people at random, injuring several.
Mr Nehammer said a manhunt was underway for the “heavily armed and dangerous” attackers.
“We have brought several special forces units together that are now searching for the presumed terrorists,” he said.
“I am, therefore, not limiting it to an area of Vienna because these are mobile perpetrators.
“We are dealing with a terror attack the severity of which, thank God, we have not experienced in Austria in many years.”
Vienna residents told to remain indoors
Austrians have been urged to stay at home until the situation is secured.
“Whether it is possible to take up public life as normal tomorrow morning, that will very much depend on tonight and whether it is possible to catch or eliminate the suspects,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.
“We have decided that property protection in the federal capital Vienna will now also be taken over completely by the armed forces so that the police really have all the resources they need to search for the terrorists and to catch or eliminate them.”
Police confirmed the attack involved six crime scenes at six locations, near the synagogue.
Austrian leader condemns ‘repulsive attack’
Mr Kurz said the Army would protect sites in the capital so police could focus on anti-terror operations.
“We are currently experiencing difficult hours in our republic,” Mr Kurz wrote on Twitter.
“I would like to thank all the emergency forces who are risking their lives for our safety, especially today.
“It’s definitely a terror attack.”
The head of the Jewish community in Vienna, Oskar Deutsch, said it was not clear whether the synagogue had been targeted.
Mr Deutsch added that the building was closed at the time of the attack.
But Mr Kurz said the possibility it was an anti-Semitic attack could not be ruled out.
Attack happened as people enjoyed last night before lockdown
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person fire shots at people sitting outside bars in the street below his window.
“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Rabbi Hofmeister said.
“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown.”
Eveline, another witness, described the moment people started to run after hearing the shooting.
“Suddenly the shooting started, at first we did not know what it was … then there was shooting again, but closer, so we started to run away,” she said.
“Because we did not know if we were running in the right direction, we ran into a hotel and hid there.”
Vienna police urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transport.
“We are on site with all available forces. Please avoid all public squares in the city,” Vienna Police wrote on Twitter.
Mr Nehammer also warned people to stay away from the centre of the city, adding border checks were being reinforced and children were not required to attend school on Tuesday.
Police also asked locals not to share videos or photos of the ongoing police operation, to avoid endangering officers.
European leaders condemn terror attack
French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter in the wake of the attack, saying his nation shared “the shock and grief of the Austrian people hit by an attack tonight”.
“After France, this is a friendly country that has been attacked. This is our Europe … We will not give in,” Mr Macron wrote.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK stood united with Austrians in the wake of the attack.
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed solidarity with the Austrian people.
Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig addressed the Viennese on Twitter, expressing his shock at the attacks and urging people to stay indoors while the police operation was underway.
“We were deeply shocked to receive information about the shooting in the inner city,” he said.
“The pictures are shocking.”
Vienna synagogue was attacked 39 years ago
In 1981, two people were killed and 18 injured during an attack by two Palestinians at the same Vienna synagogue.
In 1985, a Palestinian extremist group killed three civilians in an attack at Vienna airport.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was shocked by last night’s attacks.
He said he had contacted Mr Kurz to express his condolences to the Austrian people.
“We pray for and stand firm with our Austrian friends against acts of violence, terror and intimidation, and all they seek to undermine,” Mr Morrison said.
Donald Trump condemns ‘vile act of terrorism’
US President Donald Trump has tweeted his support for Austria.
“Our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe,” he wrote.
“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned what he called a “horrific terrorist attack”.