Armed policemen get out of their car in the center of Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting
Armed policemen get out of their car in the center of Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting
AFP

Gunmen opened fire on people enjoying the last evening out in Vienna before a coronavirus lockdown on Monday in a terror attack that left five dead -- including one of the attackers -- and 17 wounded.

Multiple Locations

As per the information given by the Police, the attacks, in six locations including near a synagogue in the centre of town, were carried out by "several suspects armed with rifles".

Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna, said the shooting took place in the street outside the city's main synagogue but that it was not clear whether the house of worship had been targeted. The synagogue was closed at the time, Deutsch tweeted.

Vienna's Chief Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside at bars in the street below his window.

"They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building," Hofmeister said. "All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown," he added.

Unverified footage posted on social media showed a gunman walking through the streets, apparently shooting at people at random, wounding several. It was unclear whether the person seen shooting was the same individual in each video.

Five dead and 17 wounded

Two men and two women died from their injuries in the attack Monday evening, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. The suspected attacker was shot and killed by police.

Vienna's hospital service said seven people were in life-threatening condition Tuesday after the attack, the Austrian news agency APA reported. In total, 17 people were being treated in hospitals, with gunshot wounds but also cuts.

A day before second COVID-19 lockdown

The country was supposed to enter second COVID-19 lockdown the next day. 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. And the attack happened when people were enjoying the last evening out in the city on Monday.

Police officer among those wounded

Some 1,000 police officers were on duty in Vienna on Tuesday morning. Among those wounded in the attack was a police officer, said Nehammer. The 28-year-old officer was in the hospital but was no longer in a life-threatening condition.

The shooting began shortly after 8 PM (1900 GMT) Monday near Vienna's main synagogue as many people were enjoying a last night of open restaurants and bars before a month-long coronavirus lockdown, which started at midnight.

Identity of the assailant

The dead attacker was a 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual national who had a previous terror conviction.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer later told APA that the dead assailant, who had roots in the Balkan nation of North Macedonia, had a previous conviction under a law that punishes membership in terrorist organizations.

The attacker, named as Kujtim Fejzulai, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 because he had tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. He was granted early release in December under juvenile law.

How did the authorities respond?

Fifteen house searches have taken place and several people have been arrested. The attacker, it is said, "was equipped with a fake explosive vest and and an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete to carry out this repugnant attack on innocent citizens."

"It is now confirmed that yesterday's attack was clearly an Islamist terror attack," Kurz said. "It was an attack out of hatred. Hatred for our fundamental values, hatred for our way of life, hatred for our democracy in which all people have equal rights and dignity."

Authorities were still trying to determine whether further attackers may be on the run.

People in Vienna were urged to avoid all open spaces and public transportation. Police said trams and buses were not stopping and urged social media users not to post videos of the police operation so as not to endanger officers.

The government on Tuesday ordered three days of official mourning, with flags on public buildings to be flown at half-staff until Thursday. A minute of silence was held at Tuesday noon.

Condemnation from across the world

The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The Islamist terror is our common enemy,? Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted. "The battle against these murderers and their instigators is our common fight."

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: "Deeply shocked and saddened by the dastardly terror attacks in Vienna. India stands with Austria during this tragic time."

US President Donald Trump tweeted 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 U.S. Stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists."

Egypt's Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world's foremost religious institution, condemned the "terrorist attacks" in Vienna. It called on international institutions "to stand united" against terrorism and reject violence and hatred.

Austria's military has provided 75 soldiers to guard key sites in Vienna, freeing up police to continue the investigation.

(With inputs from agencies)

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