‘It was definitely a terror attack.’
Gunmen opened fire in central Vienna on Monday night, killing at least three and injuring many others, including a policeman, government officials said.
One of the attackers, they said, was also killed.
At least 15 people were injured in the attack and are being treated in hospital, according to a spokesman for the hospital association. According to the mayor of Vienna, at least seven people were seriously injured.
Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz said: “It was definitely a terrorist attack.
Early Tuesday morning, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said that at least one of the attackers was still being sought. He described the culprits as “heavily armed and dangerous.”
Vienna police said the attack, which started around 8pm, involved “several suspects armed with rifles.” The gunmen opened fire at six different locations as they passed through central Vienna, officials said.
Shooting took place in the center of the Austrian capital, hours before the start of a national blockade at midnight, one of several shootings was used in Europe to stop the spread of the coronavirus. .
“We fell victim to a disgusting terrorist attack that is still going on,” Prime Minister Kurz said in a televised address before midnight.
As night fell, more gunshots were reported elsewhere across Vienna’s District 1. Police officials have described a chaotic situation, with some “exchange of shots.” Emergency vehicles were blocked off the street and a tram line through the area was closed.
The prime minister said he had called on the military to ensure security for Austria’s official buildings, freeing the police to “focus entirely on the fight against terrorism”.
When the immediate danger passed, the city stood still.
Tensions eased a bit as police officers began escorting people trapped in bars and restaurants through security corridors. The opera house and a theater were also evacuated.
However, the police maintain a dense presence in the city center as they look for suspects. More than 150 police special forces and 100 permanent officers are on duty, and a crisis team within the Ministry of the Interior is monitoring the response.
Mayor Michael Ludwig said: “There are many things to watch out for. “A lot of people are still in the city and we have to see how many of them we get out there.”
The authorities urged people to stay home and out of the city. They also said kids will be allowed to stay home from school on Tuesday.
With unclear targets, the authorities discouraged speculation.
The area where the photos were first reported is a narrow network of bars and pubs, known locally as the “Bermuda Triangle”. This is also home to Vienna’s main temple, the synagogue Seitenstettengasse – but it’s unclear what the attackers’ intended targets or targets were.
The president of the Jewish Religious Community in Austria, Oskar Deutsch, said on Twitter that the initial shooting took place “right next to” the temple, but it was closed at the time.
“It is currently unclear if the main temple is the target,” he said.
Police took to Twitter to urge restraint.
“Please don’t share any rumors, allegations, speculations or unconfirmed number of victims,” they said. “That doesn’t help at all! Stay indoors, shelter, Keep away from public places. “
A light evening, and then gunshots.
Attackers attacked as the Austrians gathered outdoors for a final night before the country took on stringent new measures to control the pandemic.
Ameli Pietsch, 23, who was in the area an hour before the attack started: “You can feel a lot of people want to get out again before the attack starts. “It was a light evening and a lot of people were outside.”
All that changed in an instant.
Julia Schrammel, a 24-year-old student, said: “I am currently in one of the restaurants right next to where the attacks occurred. “I’m here with my cousins because we want a good night out before we lock the door.”
At first, Ms. Schrammel said, the extent of what was going on was not clear.
“We just saw quite a lot of people running, not knowing what was going on, then we heard gunshots and some people screaming,” she said.
The restaurant was eventually closed. Elsewhere, there were reports of patrons from other restaurants running to the kitchens.
The city halted all trams and subways in central Vienna and repeated police calls for residents to take shelter on site. That includes many people already in restaurants and cafes.
“The situation here is very stressful,” said Ms. Schrammel. “The safest thing is to stay here. We were surrounded by tons of police and ambulances.
The sounds of sirens and helicopters filled the night air as the Austrians tried to absorb what was happening.
“We are in shock,” said Farnaz Alavi, a 34-year-old human resources consultant in Vienna. “It feels like they staged this attack on the last night” before closing, “when many people went out for maximum impact.”
Witnesses posted dramatic videos of the attack.
Some have posted dramatic videos of what appeared to be the shooting and its aftermath.
One video showed people helping an injured man lying in a pool of blood, just outside a restaurant on Ruprechtsplatz and less than 1.6 km from the Austrian Parliament building. Some of the chairs in the outdoor area of the restaurant were toppled, as if abandoned in a hurry.
Another video shows a man in civilian clothing appearing from a bar or restaurant, then firing two rifles down the street.
Yet another video appeared showing the same gunman on the same street, shooting a man with a long gun at close range, then turned around for a few seconds to shoot him twice with a shotgun.
Other videos show runners looking for shelter or crawling behind obstacles as scenes ring the streets and heavily armed policemen are taking their place.
On Twitter, the Vienna police pleaded with witnesses not to post videos and photos on social media, but to send them to the authorities.
World leaders expressed sympathy and support.
World leaders, government officials and politicians condemned the Vienna attack, offering condolences to the victims and their families.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, posted a message of support on Twitter in German in which he mentioned recent terrorist attacks in his country.
“We French shared the shock and grief of the Austrian people after an attack in Vienna,” wrote Macron. “After France, another friendly country was attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give in.
“Scary, disturbing news comes to us from Vienna tonight,” read a statement from the German government, rewritten by Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Even the scale of the terrorist attack is not yet clear: our thoughts are with the wounded and the victims during these difficult hours. We must not give way to the meaningful hatred that divides our society. ”
On the eve of the US election, when many in the country were concerned about potential instability, President Trump also tweeted:
“Our prayers are for the people of Vienna after another bad act of terror in Europe. Cruel attacks against innocent people must be stopped. America stands side by side with Austria, France and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Muslim terrorists, ”he wrote.
Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, said in a statement that the country was praying for the people of Vienna. “We stand side by side with Austria, France and all of Europe in the fight against terrorism,” said Mr. O’Brien.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., Trump’s Democratic rival, says he and his wife, Jill, are “keeping the victims and their families in our prayers.” He added, “We must all unite against hatred and violence.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack “appalling and heartbreaking” and condemned it “under the strongest terms possible.”
A city that sometimes finds itself in a cross.
Austria – and especially Vienna – has been the target of terrorist attacks for many years, often with lethal results.
Religious and political tensions, sometimes without a clear connection to Austria, have resulted in sporadic violence that killed and wounded both civilians and political figures there.
In 1975, a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in the city was attacked by six men with submachine guns. They killed three people and took at least 60 hostages.
A self-responsible group viewed the attack as “an act of political and information scramble” against “an alliance between American imperialism and surrendering reactionary forces in the Arab homeland.”
In 1981, Heinz Nittel, a leader of the Austrian Socialist party and the head of the Austro-Israel Friendship Association, was assassinated outside his home by an attacker linked to a Palestinian militia group. .
The synagogues of Vienna were also attacked. Two people were killed in 1981 when terrorists attacked a temple with grenades and guns. The attack came weeks after two small bombs exploded outside the Israeli embassy.
Immediately after Christmas 1985, panic enveloped the Vienna airport when three gunmen entered the check-in room and opened fire with submachine guns, killing three and injuring dozens. Witnesses at the time said the attack started when an El Al Israel Airlines flight was taking off. The attack appeared to have been coordinated with another 10-minute earlier El Al test in Rome.
From 1993 to 1997, a series of mail bombs and other explosive devices, including one that injured the mayor of Vienna, raised fears of neo-fascist terrorism in the country. The man convicted in the attacks said his goal was to create a unity of German-speaking regions.
Melissa Eddy, Christopher F. Schuetze and Katrin Bennhold reporting from Berlin. Christoph Koettl, Farnaz Fassihi and Emmett Lindner reporting from New York. Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reports from Darwin, Australia, and Joe Ritchie from Hong Kong.