Gunmen attacked six locations in central Vienna on Monday starting outside the main synagogue, killing two people and injuring at least 14 in what Austria called a “repulsive terror attack” while hunting one or more assailants on the loose.
Witnesses described the men firing into crowds in bars with automatic rifles, as many people took advantage of the last evening before a nationwide curfew was introduced because of COVID-19. Police shot and killed one assailant.
Police sealed off much of the historic centre of Vienna, urging the public to shelter in place. Many sought refuge in bars and hotels, while public transport throughout the old town was shut down and police scoured the city.
“It is the hardest day for Austria in many years. We are dealing with a terror attack the severity of which, thank God, we have not experienced in Austria in many years,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told a news conference.
Austria`s capital had so far been spared the kind of deadly militant attacks that have struck Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels, among others, in recent years. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the “repulsive” act was “definitely a terror attack”, but he could not say what the motive was.
Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna`s Jewish community, which has offices adjoining the synagogue on a narrow cobbled street dotted with bars, said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the temple or offices were targeted but that they were closed at the time.