At least one person was killed and a number of people injured in a suspected terrorist attack in the center of Vienna. Several shootings occurred at various locations, including one near a synagogue, with a gunman armed with rifles presumably still at large.
Around 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST) shots were reported from the area around the central synagogue in Vienna, as confirmed by the police. In total there are at least six crime scenes and one perpetrator was shot by the police.
The spokesman for the emergency services, Daniel Melcher, said that there were several dead and injured, as the Austria Press Agency was informed, but exact numbers could not be given. About 15 people were admitted to hospital. Rumors about the other crime scenes are circulating in the social media, but they have not been verified, and the police warned that “all other speculation is not effective” and the media should be careful with their reporting.
“Several shots fired in the central district of Vienna – there are injured – Do not stop in public areas! Stay at home”, twittered the verified Twitter account of the Vienna police. Local media reported that an attack took place in a synagogue, although law enforcement authorities have not confirmed this information.
“There were several shootings around the inner city,” a police statement said. “There are several injured. We are on duty with all possible forces. Please avoid all public places in the city.”
One of the seriously injured is said to be a policeman, the news agency APA announced and reported that the Austrian Ministry of the Interior had confirmed these statements. The Ministry of the Interior also said that one assailant was killed, but another may still be at large and on the run, reports said.
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer has called the incident a terrorist attack. The police urged residents to avoid the area and not to publish videos or photos in social media, as “these endanger both the emergency services and the civilian population”.
The exact location of the shooting is unknown, and Jewish leaders in the country were keen to say that it was too early to draw any conclusions from reports of the attack near a synagogue.
“It cannot be said at this time whether the city temple was one of the targets,” Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (IKG) – the body representing the Orthodox Jewish community in Vienna – told Twitter. “What is certain, however, is that both the synagogue on Seitenstettengasse and the office building at the same address were no longer in operation and closed at the time of the first shots.
“Shots were fired in the immediate vicinity of the city temple. All parishioners were told not to enter public streets and to stay inside until the security authorities issued a warning, which was in contact with the ICG security department. Please do not spread unsecured information or rumors, stay in the house and follow the instructions of the police”.
The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had previously announced new restrictions, which entailed a second partial cordoning off. “There will be a second lockdown in Austria starting Tuesday,” Kurz said at a press conference. “As in the spring, it will be necessary to do without many things.
French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country was also a victim of the latest terrorist attacks, has promised Austria his support. “We French share the shock and grief of the Austrian people who were hit by an attack in the heart of their capital Vienna this evening,” he said on Twitter. “After France, a friendly country is under attack. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give up.
“We French share the shock and sorrow of the Austrians after an attack in Vienna. After France, it is a friendly country that is being attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not engage in anything.”
This is an evolving story and will be updated as new information becomes available.