Officials described the shootings in the heart of the Austrian capital Monday night as a terrorist attack, and said some gunmen were still at large.
By Christopher F. Schuetze, Melissa Eddy, Katrin Bennhold and Christoph Koettl
“We are going through a dark hour in our republic,” Austria’s chancellor said after the attack in Vienna.
Here’s what you need to know:
- ‘It is definitely a terror attack.’With the target unclear, the authorities discouraged speculation.A mild evening out, and then gunfire.Witnesses posted dramatic videos of the attack.
Several people were reported injured in the shooting Monday night in the heart of Austria’s capital. The interior minister called it an “obvious terrorist attack.”CreditCredit…Roland Schlager/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images
‘It is definitely a terror attack.’
Multiple gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons in central Vienna on Monday night, killing at least one person and wounding many others, including a police officer, government officials said. They said that one attacker had been killed.
At least 15 people were wounded in the attack and were being treated in hospitals, according to the spokesman for the local hospital association. At least seven of the wounds were serious, according to Vienna’s mayor.
“It is definitely a terror attack,” said Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
And late Monday, it was still not over.
“The police managed to eliminate one perpetrator,” Mr. Kurz sad, “but there are still several perpetrators at large.”
Karl Nehammer, Austria’s interior minister, described the perpetrators as “heavily armed and dangerous” and said, “We are still in a battle against suspected terrorists.”
The Vienna police said the attack, which began around 8 p.m., involved “several suspects armed with rifles.” The gunmen opened fire in six different locations as they through central Vienna, they said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman, Harald Sörös, described the person who was killed as a passer-by.
The shooting took place in the heart of the Austrian capital, hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown, one of several being imposed in Europe to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have become the victim of a disgusting terror attack that is still going on,” Chancellor Kurz said in a televised address to the nation just before midnight.
As the night wore on, more gunfire was reported elsewhere across Vienna’s First District. Police officials described a chaotic situation, with several “exchanges of shots.” Emergency vehicles blocked off streets and a streetcar line through the area was shut down.
The chancellor said he had called in troops to ensure the security of Austria’s official buildings, freeing up the police to “concentrate fully on the fight against terror.”
With the target unclear, the authorities discouraged speculation.
Austrian police special forces were on patrol after the shooting Monday.Credit…Lisi Niesner/Reuters
The area where shots were first reported is a tight web of streets packed with bars and pubs, known locally as the “Bermuda Triangle.” It is also home to Vienna’s main temple, the Seitenstettengasse synagogue — but it was not clear what was the intended target of the attackers.
The president of the Jewish Religious Community in Austria, Oskar Deutsch, said on Twitter that the initial shooting had occurred “in the immediate vicinity” of the temple, but that it was closed at the time.
“It is not clear right now whether the main temple was the target,” he said.
The police took to Twitter to urge restraint.
“Please don’t share any rumors, accusations, speculations or unconfirmed numbers of victims,” they said. “That does not help at all! Stay inside, take shelter, Keep away from public places.”
A mild evening out, and then gunfire.
People running away from the state opera, near the scene of the shooting.Credit…Joe Klamar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The attackers struck as Austrians congregated outdoors to enjoy a final night out before the country imposes strict new measures to control the pandemic.
“You could feel a lot of people wanted to get out one more time before lockdown starts,” said Ameli Pietsch, 23, who was in the area an hour before the attack. “It was a mild evening and lots of people were outside.”
All that changed in a moment.
“I am currently in one of the restaurants right next to where the attacks happened,” said Julia Schrammel, a 24-year-old student. “I am here with my cousins because we wanted to spend a nice night together before the lockdown.”
At first, Ms. Schrammel said, the magnitude of what was happening was not clear.
“We just saw quite a few people running, had no clue what was going on, then heard the shooting and a few people screaming,” she said.
The restaurant was eventually locked down. Elsewhere, there were reports of patrons in other restaurants running into the kitchen to hide.
The city halted all trams and subways in central Vienna and repeated the police plea for people to shelter in place. That included many who were in restaurants and cafes.
“The situation here is very tense,” Ms. Schrammel said. “It’s safest to stay here. We are surrounded by tons of police and ambulances.”
The sound of sirens and helicopters filled the night air as Austrians struggled to absorb what was happening.
“We are in shock,” said Farnaz Alavi, a 34-year-old human resources consultant in Vienna. “It feels like they orchestrated this attack on the last night of the lockdown when lots of people were out for maximum impact.”
Witnesses posted dramatic videos of the attack.
Several people posted dramatic videos of what appeared to be the shooting and its aftermath.
One video showed people aiding a wounded person lying in a pool of blood, just outside a restaurant on Ruprechtsplatz and less than a mile from the Austrian Parliament building. Several chairs in the restaurant’s outdoor area had been overturned, as if abandoned in a hurry.
Another video showed a man in civilian clothing emerging from a bar or restaurant, then firing a rifle twice down a street.
Yet another video appeared to show the same gunman on the same street, shooting a man with a long gun at close range, then returning seconds later to shoot him twice more with a handgun.
Other videos showed people running for cover or ducking behind obstacles as shots echoed through the streets, and heavily armed police officers taking up positions.
On Twitter, the Vienna police pleaded with witnesses not to post videos and pictures to social media, but instead to send them to the authorities.
Melissa Eddy, Christopher F. Schuetze and Katrin Bennhold reported from Berlin. Christoph Koettl and Farnaz Fassihi reported from New York.