Five people have been killed and at least 15 others injured, after gunmen opened fire at six different locations on Monday evening in Austria’s capital, Vienna.
The country’s Federal Minister of Interior Karl Nehammer said, on Tuesday, that an “Islamist terrorist” was involved in Vienna attack.
Nehammer reported that at least one “heavily armed and dangerous” attacker was believed to be still at large, whilst other officials were quoted as saying that there could have been as many as four attackers.
A massive search operation has been launched for other attackers, with at least 1,000 police officers fanning out across the city, a police spokesperson said. Seven of the wounded have life-threatening injuries, Austrian media reported.
One of the attackers, who was carrying an assault rifle and handguns, was shot dead by police outside St Rupert’s Church, considered Vienna’s oldest church. His body was found strung with an explosives vest and a bag of ammunition, although police later reported the vest was fake.
Nehammer described the attacker killed by police as an “Islamist terrorist”, adding that video material had been seized from the home of the known assailant during a search. Police are currently investigating his potential connections.
The minister told the APA news agency that the 20-year-old gunman had been released early from jail last December, eight months after he was convicted of trying to travel to Syria to join the militant Islamic State group (IS).
Nehammer called upon people to stay away from the centre, as police cordoned off some streets and brought in reinforcements. Schools across Vienna were closed, on Tuesday, with parents told to keep their children at home.
Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the attack a “repulsive terror attack”, whilst the government called it “an attack on freedom and democracy”.
One of those killed in the attack was reportedly a waitress, with a second female victim dying of her wounds in hospital overnight, reports said.
Whereas the victims were shot in a busy city centre area near Vienna’s central synagogue, it is not yet clear if the synagogue was the target.
The attack came just hours before Austria imposed a midnight curfew, aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In a statement by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt condemned “in the strongest terms” the terrorist attack in Vienna, expressing its condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
The statement asserted Egypt’s support to the government and people of Austria over the “brutal attack”, expressing its confidence in the Austrian people’s ability to overcome the tragic situation.
The ministry also reiterated its firm rejection of all types of violence, terrorism and extremism, and urged for a joint and intensified international effort to combat terrorism in all its forms.