Austria’s top security official says that five people have died — including an assailant — and 15 people were wounded in a shooting in the heart of Vienna hours before a coronavirus lockdown was to start.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told reporters Tuesday that two men and two woman have died from their injuries in the attack late Monday. A suspected attacker, who was carrying an assault rifle and a fake suicide vest, was also shot and killed by police.
Nehammer said that initial investigations indicate the suspect who was killed had sympathized with the Islamic State group. Police searched his apartment was searched and other premises as well, Austrian news agency APA reported.
“We experienced an attack last night by at least one Islamist terrorist,” Nehammer told reporters. He declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
Authorities were still trying to determine whether further attackers may be on the run, he said. People in Vienna were urged to stay at home if possible on Tuesday and children did not have to go to school.
Among those injured in the attack was a police officer, said Nehammer. The 28-year-old officer was in the hospital but no longer in a life-threatening condition.
The shooting began shortly after 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) Monday near Vienna’s main synagogue as many people were enjoying a last night of open restaurants and bars before the start of a month-long coronavirus lockdown.
“We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside at bars in the street below his window near the city’s main synagogue.
“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Hofmeister said.
“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown,” he added.
The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Monday night as he prepared for his final rally ahead of Election Day: “Our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe.”
“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop,” Trump added. “The U.S. stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also condemned the attack.
“The Islamist terror is our common enemy,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted. “The battle against these murderers and their instigators in our common fight.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he was “deeply shocked by the terrible attacks in Vienna tonight,” on Twitter.
“The UK’s thoughts are with the people of Austria — we stand united with you against terror,” the tweet read.
In the wake of the attack, the Canadian government advised citizens currently in Austria to remain indoors and contact friends or family to confirm their well-being.
“Today’s shooting in Vienna is horrific and heartbreaking,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter Monday night. “We condemn in the strongest terms possible this act of terrorism.”
Austria’s military has provided 75 soldiers to guard key sites in Vienna, freeing up police to continue the investigation. Germany and Hungary have offered to send tactical police units to support their Austrian colleagues. Some 1,000 police officers were in Vienna on Tuesday morning.
Authorities say residents have uploaded 20,000 videos of the attack to police.
France has endured three attacks blamed on Muslim extremists in recent weeks: the wounding of two people outside satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s old headquarters; the beheading of a schoolteacher who showed students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad; and a deadly knife attack Thursday in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
All of the attacks were strongly condemned at the time by Austria’s chancellor.
With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and Sean Boynton. Frank Jordans reported from Berlin. Kirsten Grieshaber and David Rising contributed to this report from Berlin.