Austrian leaders have called the shooting a terror attack, and police have launched a city-wide man hunt for at least one suspect.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said there was still a “very tense security situation,” as people across the city were asked to stay put and avoid returning home until the danger had been averted.

Speaking on Austrian public broadcaster ORF, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said several suspects had assault rifles. “We are still in battle against the would-be terrorists,” he said.

Gunfire erupted at about 8 p.m. in the busy shopping and dining district near Vienna’s main synagogue, Seitenstettengasse Temple, which was closed.

Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig said the gunmen appeared to shoot at random as people dined and drank outside due to the warm weather and virus concerns.

At least one person died in the shooting and 15 were injured, including a police officer, according to Austrian authorities. One gunman was shot dead by police.

It is unclear how many shooters there were in total, or what motivated the attack.

Julia Hiermann, who lives in Vienna, was having drinks with a friend when the shooting began.

Restaurant staff told everyone to hide in the basement, she told CNN over the phone. There she and others were told that gunmen were shooting outside. Hiermann said she did not see or hear the attackers.

The police later came inside the restaurant and told diners that “we have to stay inside and wait here,” she said. “This seems unimaginable. When they said shots fired I didn’t think this was serious,” she said.

Police respond to a shooting near Vienna's main synagogue.

Reaction to the attack

Footage shared on social media show the chaos unfolding as gunfire started, with people fleeing from the scene on foot.

Some people were trapped inside the Vienna Burgtheater state opera; there had been a performance going on when the shooting took place. Artistic director Martin Kusej took to the stage to announce there had been an incident nearby, and advised people to stay inside the theater.

In the aftermath, armed police swarmed the area, with helicopters and ambulances deployed to the scene. Police walked through the bars and restaurants, ordering people to stay inside, and conducting checks on some people’s cars, and areas of the city were cordoned off.

Police are urging people to avoid the area and not share photos or videos on social media.

Authorities are still working to find out more about the perpetrators, but Kurz told ORF that “an anti-Semitic motive cannot be excluded” due to the attack’s proximity to the synagogue. The Austrian army has been deployed to help protect buildings and properties.

Police cars and armed police officers in central Vienna.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna’s Jewish community, said in a tweet that it was unclear whether the synagogue was a target, but that it was closed at the time of the shooting.

All synagogues, Jewish schools, the institutions of the IKG (Jewish Community of Vienna), and kosher restaurants and supermarkets in Vienna will be closed on Tuesday as a precaution, Deutsch said.

In a press conference in the early hours of Tuesday, Nehammer said it was “the hardest day for Austria for many years.” “Those who attack one of us, attacks all of us,” he said.

Across Europe, leaders have strongly condemned the shooting, which follows two terror attacks in France in recent weeks.

“After France, it is a friendly country that is under attack,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter.

“Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values,” the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said on Twitter.

Other leaders have shared statements expressing their shock and sorrow, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Stephanie Halasz and Tim Lister contributed to this report.

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here