VIENNA (Reuters) – Several gunmen opened fire at six locations in central Vienna near the Central Synagogue on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring 15, which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called a “repulsive terrorist attack”. Described as.
Interior Minister Karl Nehmer said several “heavily armed and dangerous” attackers were still loose, as police closed and sealed large portions of central Vienna in a manhunt. Residents were urged to stay indoors.
“We have brought together several Special Forces units which are now looking for presumed terrorists. So I am not limiting it to one area in Vienna because these are mobile criminals, ”Nehmer told broadcaster ORF.
Kurz said the military would protect sites in the capital so that police could focus on counter-terrorism operations. Speaking to ORF, he said the attackers were “very well equipped with automatic weapons” and were “professionally prepared”.
Police said on Twitter that at least one person was killed and one police officer was among the injured. Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig told ORF that 15 people are being treated in Vienna’s hospitals, and seven are in critical condition.
Police also said that they had shot one of the attackers.
Nehmer said that the area around the roadside had a central synagogue at all six locations of the attack.
Leader of the Jewish community, Oskar Deiter, said on Twitter that it was unclear what the goal of the Vienna Synagogue and surrounding offices was and that they were closed at the time.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told LBC Radio in London that he was living on the premises of the synagogue. “Hearing the shots, we looked through the windows (below) and saw gunmen firing at guests of various bars and pubs,” he said.
“The gunmen were running around and shooting at least 100 rounds or more in front of our building,” he said.
Video circulated on social media of a gunman shooting and screaming at a Cobblestone street. Reuters could not immediately verify the video.
The attack took place a few hours earlier as the increased prevalence of coronovirus led to partial lockout, restaurants, cafes and hotels were closed and night movement was banned.
Authorities gave no indication of the identity of the attackers or the reason for the attack.
“We can’t really say anything about the background yet,” Kuraj told ORF. “Of course, an anti-Jewish background cannot be dismissed.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has seen two fatal knife attacks in Paris and Nice in recent weeks, issued a statement expressing shock and sorrow.
“This is our Europe,” he said. “Our enemies should know with whom they are working. We will not back down. “
French authorities have stepped up security since the attacks in Paris and Nice, which suspected Islamist motives. Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites such as places of worship and schools, and ministers have warned that other Islamic terrorist attacks may occur.
In 1981, two people were killed and 18 were injured during an attack by two Palestinians in the same Vienna Synagogue. In 1985, a Palestinian extremist group killed three civilians in an attack at the airport.
In recent years, Austria has been spared as large scale attacks in Paris, Berlin and London.
In August, authorities arrested a 31-year-old Syrian refugee suspected of trying to attack a Jewish community leader in the country’s second city of Graz. The leader was uneducated.
Reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna, Michael Shields and Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich, Andrea Schaal in Washington, Mark Bendike in London; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Howard Goller and Nick Tattersall