At least one person has been killed and several more wounded – some seriously – after shootings in central Vienna, police say. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called it a “repulsive terror attack” and said one gunman was also killed. Police said several attackers armed with rifles launched the assault in six different locations.
A large area has been cordoned off as police scoured the city for the other gunmen. The shootings took place near the central synagogue but it is not yet clear if that was the target. Mayor Michael Ludwig said 15 people had been wounded, seven of them seriously. Among the injured is a police officer, according to reports.
What do we know about the attack?
Police said the incident began near the Seitenstettengasse synagogue, which is the main temple in Vienna. Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch tweeted that the synagogue was closed at the time the attack began at 20:00 (19:00 GMT). An officer guarding the synagogue was among the wounded, newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported.
Footage posted on social media showed people running through the streets as gunshots rang out. “It sounded like firecrackers, then we realised it was shots,” said one witness quoted by ORF. As a major anti-terror operation swung into action, police urged people to avoid the area and not to use public transport. Roadblocks were set up around the city centre.
Police in the neighbouring Czech Republic said they had launched random checks on the border with Austria amid fears that the gunmen might head in that direction. The attack happened just hours before Austria imposed new national restrictions to try to stem rising cases of coronavirus.
Many people were in central Vienna enjoying bars and restaurants which must close under the new measures until the end of November.
What has the reaction been?
On Twitter, Mr Kurz said “we are experiencing difficult hours in our republic”. “Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this hideous terrorist attack. We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism,” he said.
European leaders strongly condemned the attack, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying that Europe must not “give up” in the face of attacks. “We the French people share the shock and grief of the Austrian people, struck this evening by an attack in the heart of their capital, Vienna.
After France, a friend of ours is attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with,” he said. Three people died in a knife attack in a church in the French city of Nice last week in what Mr Macron said was an “Islamist terrorist attack”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his support for the people of Vienna saying he was “deeply shocked by the terrible attacks”. “The UK’s thoughts are with the people of Austria – we stand united with you against terror,” he said.
European Council President Charles Michel called it a cowardly act that violated life and human values