At least 2 dead in suspected terror attack near Vienna synagogue

At least one killed and 15 injured in what Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as a 'despicable terrorist attack.'

At least 2 dead in suspected terror attack near Vienna synagogue

At least two victims were killed and 14 others injured in a series of shootings that started near a synagogue in central Vienna on Monday night, which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as a “despicable terrorist attack.”

The shooting began at about 8 p.m. local time at six different locations by multiple gunmen armed with rifles, according to local authorities. Police shot and killed one of the suspects.

At least one person is still on the run, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a press conference overnight. He added that while schools will remain open on Tuesday, children will not be obligated to attend, and told people to stay home unless they absolutely had to go out for work or other essential reasons.

“This is the most difficult day Austria has had in many years,” Nehammer said. Speaking alongside the interior minister at the press conference, the director general for public security, Franz Ruf, said Austria would step up its border controls.

“We are currently experiencing difficult hours in our republic,” Chancellor Kurz said on Twitter. “Our police will pursue the perpetrators of this despicable terror attack with all determination.”

“I am happy that our police have already managed to neutralize one of the perpetrators. We will never be intimidated by terrorism and will resolutely fight these attacks with all measures.”

Earlier, Nehammer said in an interview with public broadcaster ORF that several heavily armed perpetrators were still active in the city center.

“We continue to be in the midst of a fight against suspected terrorists,” Nehammer said, adding: “We are assuming several perpetrators, heavily armed and dangerous.”

Kurz also said the government had decided to hand over protection efforts to the army so “the police can concentrate on the fight against terrorism.”

Mayor Michael Ludwig said seven of those in hospital were seriously injured.

The head of the Jewish Community of Vienna, Oskar Deutsch, said it was unclear if the synagogue was the target as the temple and its offices were closed at the time of the shooting. Nevertheless, he added that all community members were advised to remain indoors until getting the all-clear from authorities. Deutsch said all synagogues, Jewish schools and community institutions, kosher restaurants and supermarkets will be closed Tuesday as a precaution.

Viennese police on Twitter warned locals to stay away from public places and public transport. Monday is the last night before Austria’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown begins, and some had therefore decided to go out to restaurants, bars and other venues, with the area where the shootings were carried out known for its nightlife. Many people are now trapped inside venues in the city center.

Police warned people not to spread rumors online or share videos of the events on social media as it could endanger their ongoing operation.

“We are all deeply affected by the suspected terrorist attack in central Vienna,” Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen tweeted. He added: “We will defend our freedom and democracy together and resolutely by all means necessary. I am in contact with the federal government and say thank you on behalf of the Republic for the statements of support from international heads of state and government.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is still reeling after recent deadly attacks at a church and against a teacher, tweeted in German that “We, French people, share in the shock and sorrow of Austrians after an attack in Vienna. After France, another friendly country has been attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give up.”

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted support for Kurz and said, “Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values. My thoughts are with the victims and the people of #Vienna in the wake of tonight’s horrific attack.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also voiced support for Austria, tweeting: “I am shocked and saddened by the brutal attack that took place in Vienna. My thoughts are with the families of the victims and the Austrian people. Europe stands in full solidarity with Austria. We are stronger than hatred and terror.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described the attack on Twitter as a “cowardly act of violence and hate.”

Kalina Oroschakoff and Cornelius Hirsch contributed reporting.