Top Austrian security official said 5 people were killed – including an attacker – and 15 were injured in a shooting in central Vienna hours before the start of a coronavirus crackdown.
VIENNA (AP) – A man who had previously tried to join the militant Islamic State group in Vienna, armed with automatic rifles and fake explosive vests, shot and killed four people before he was caught. killing, Austrian authorities said on Tuesday.
Witnesses described dozens of people screaming from the sounds of gunshots on Monday night in a crowded nightlife area with revelers enjoying the final hours before the coronavirus lock.
Others fenced off inside restaurants for hours until they were sure the danger was over. The video appears to be from the scene showing a gunman, dressed in white overalls, firing seemingly random shots as he runs down the dark cobblestone streets of the Austrian capital.
While the attack lasted only a few minutes, the authorities only said on Tuesday afternoon that there was no sign of a second attacker ̵1; adding to tensions in the capital when residents were asked to stay home. .
Two men and two women died from injuries in the attack. A police officer trying to get in the way of the attacker was shot and injured, authorities said, along with 21 others.
The suspect is identified as an Austro-North Macedonian citizen, 20 years old, with a history of terrorism for plotting to join the Islamic State group in Syria. Police searched 18 properties and apartments of the suspect, and detained 14 people linked to the abuser being questioned, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.
“Yesterday’s attack was clearly an Islamic terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz. “It is an attack because of hatred – hate for our fundamental values, hate our way of life, hate our democracy, in which everyone has equal rights. equality and dignity. “
According to Nehammer, the attacker, identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, was armed with a fake explosive vest, an automatic rifle, a shotgun and a machete. Before the attack, he posted a photo to his social media account showing him posing with a rifle and machete, Nehammer said.
Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 but released early in December.
“The fact is that the terrorists have deceived the judicial system’s denuclearization program” to ensure his release, Nehammer added, adding that the system should be reassessed.
He also said that the suspect’s attempt to strip Austrian citizenship had failed because of a lack of evidence. In North Macedonia, Interior Ministry spokesman Toni Angelovski said authorities there would cooperate with Austrian police.
Fejzulai’s lawyer in the 2019 case, Nikolaus Rast, told public broadcaster ORF that his client appeared “completely harmless” at the time.
“He was a young man looking for his place in society, who seemed to have gone to the wrong mosque, ended up going the wrong circle,” Rast said.
Fejzulai’s family “is not completely religious; the family is not extreme, ”added Rast. “I still remember that the family couldn’t believe what happened to their son.”
Authorities worked well on Tuesday to determine if there were any other attackers, with around 1,000 police officers on duty in the city. Residents of Vienna are encouraged to stay home if possible on Tuesdays and the kids don’t have to go to school.
In the middle of the afternoon, investigators screened for ample video evidence found “there was no sign of a second culprit,” Nehammer said. “But since there is no evaluation conclusion, we cannot say exactly how many perpetrators are responsible for the crime.”
For now, the enhanced level of security will remain in Vienna with an increased police presence, he said. The country held a minute of silence at midday Tuesday, accompanied by a bell in the capital, and the government ordered three official national mourning days, with flags on public buildings hanging at a height. half staff.
The shooting started just after 8pm on Monday near Vienna’s main synagogue as many people were enjoying their last night at restaurants and bars that opened before a month-long coronavirus lockout, starting at midnight.
Nine minutes later, it was over, Nehammer said.
Alois Schroll, an Austrian lawmaker and mayor of the town of Ybbs, said he had just arrived at a nearby restaurant when the shooting started. He said that he “saw so many, many people running with their hands up high, they panicked and screamed.”
The police “completely blocked the restaurant,” Schroll, 52, told The Associated Press. “Everyone inside the restaurant was shocked, there were some women crying. And it was not long before 1 am, the police let us out of the restaurant.
Schroll said he was not allowed to return to his apartment because the area was still closed – and so he spent hours wandering the streets.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he had seen at least one person shoot at people sitting outside a street bar below a window near the city’s main synagogue.
“They fired at least 100 bullets just outside our building,” said Hofmeister.
The attack drew quick condemnation and ensured backing from leaders across Europe, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who has undergone three terrorist attacks in recent weeks. Here, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. US President Donald Trump also condemned “another vile act of terror in Europe.”
Moulson reports from Berlin. Associated Press writers Frank Jordans, Kirsten Grieshaber and David Rising contribute from Berlin, and Konstantin Testorides from Skopje, North Macedonia.
Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written, or redistributed.