A terror attack in central Vienna has left at least three people dead, and at least one gunman remains on the run, Austria’s Interior Minister has told a news conference.
- The shooting took place near Vienna’s main synagogue
- Austrian police said attackers opened fire with rifles
- Austria’s Chancellor condemned the “repulsive attack”
Several people injured were also injured during the incident in the Austrian capital on Monday night.
Among the three confirmed dead was one of the attackers, who was shot by police.
Ahead of the news conference, Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told national broadcaster ORF 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.”
Authorities said offenders armed with automatic rifles had fired shots from six locations starting 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.
Police confirmed the attack involved six crime scenes at six locations.
All six sites are in the immediate vicinity of the street where the synagogue is located.
Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig said 15 people had been hospitalised, seven of whom were suffering serious injuries.
Mr Ludwig told ORF a woman injured in the attack later had died of her injuries, taking the number of civilians killed to two.
Police said an officer was among the injured.
Authorities gave no indication of the identity of the assailants or reason for the attack.
A section of central Vienna has been cordoned off and a large contingent of police has been deployed to the area.
Austrian leader condemns ‘repulsive attack’
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian 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.
“Our police will take decisive action against the perpetrators of this repulsive terrorist attack.”
Mr Kurz praised the actions of police and said the incident was “definitely a terrorist attack”.
“One of the perpetrators was neutralised but several perpetrators appear to still be on the loose,” he said.
“It’s definitely a terror attack.”
The head of the Jewish community in Vienna, Oskar Deutsch, said the shooting took place in the street where the city’s main synagogue was located, but it was not clear whether it had been targeted.
Mr Deutsch said the synagogue was closed at the time of the attack.
Mr Kurz said the possibility it was an anti-Semitic attack could not be ruled out.
Attack happened as people enjoyed last night out 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,” he added.
“As of midnight, all bars and restaurants will be closed in Austria for the next month and a lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out.”
Vienna police said their operation in the centre of the city was ongoing and they urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transport.
“There are several injured persons,” police said on Twitter.
“We are on site with all available forces. Please avoid all public squares in the city.”
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 warned 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.
France has endured three attacks in recent weeks: one by a Pakistani refugee who injured two people outside satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s old headquarters, the slaying of a schoolteacher who showed students caricatures of the prophet of Islam, and a deadly knife attack last Thursday in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK stood united with Austrians in the wake of the attack.
The Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed solidarity with the Austrian people.
Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig addressed 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.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was shocked by the terror 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.