A large-scale police operation is under way in cental Vienna. October 2, 2020.
Several people have been injured, some seriously, and at least one person has been killed in a shooting in central Vienna, according to police.
One suspect was also shot dead and a police officer is among the injured, they added.
Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer said in an interview on ORF that the incident appeared to be a terror attack.
“The city centre and public transport are locked down,” police told Euronews in a statement. “We beg people to stay in their homes and avoid public places.”
What do we know about the attack?
Several suspects armed with rifles were reported at six different locations.
Large swathes of the city centre were cordoned off as police hunted for the other gunmen.
Shots were first fired at 8 pm on Seitenstettengasse – a street near Vienna’s main synagogue.
The incident came just hours before Austria was set to go into a partial coronavirus lockdown.
In a tweet nearly four hours after the first gunfire was reported, police said the incident was “still active” and reiterated calls for residents of the city not to go outside.
Oskar Deutsch, a Jewish community leader, said it was too early to say whether the temple was one of the targets but confirmed there had been “a shooting in the immediate vicinity of the city temple.”
Deutsch said that both the synagogue in Seitenstettengasse and an office building at the same address were closed at the time of the attack.
Vienna public transport is not stopping in the city’s 1st district until further notice.
What have we heard from the scene?
Vienna’s Chief Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told broadcaster LBC in a radio interview that he was in the Seitenstettengasse synagogue’s compound and saw multiple gunmen firing into bars and restaurants.
“The gunmen were running around, shooting at least 100 rounds or even more, in front of our building,” he added.
He said he “doubted it was an attack on the synagogue, adding: “At this time of night there is no activity taking place in the great synagogue, we don’t really know, however, what’s going on.”
Police asked social media users not to share photos or videos that purported to show the incident because it “endangers both emergency services and the civilian population”.
In videos shared on social media, people were pictured running as what appeared to be gunshots could be heard.
Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig said in a tweet: “We were deeply shocked to receive information about the shooting in the inner city. The pictures are shocking and stunning. A large-scale police operation is currently ongoing.”
Vienna police confirmed that officers were out in force.
Roadblocks have been set up around the centre of Vienna.
Czech police said Monday evening that they were “carrying out random checks on vehicles and passengers” at the country’s border with Austria after the attack.
“Police officers exercise increased supervision over the most important Jewish buildings in the Czech Republic,” the force added in a tweet. “We assure the public that the measures taken are exclusively preventive in nature.”
European leaders condemn the attack
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the “hideous terrorist attack,” adding: “Our police will take decisive action against the perpetrators.”
The army will protect sites in the capital so police can focus on anti-terror operations, he added.
“The whole country’s thoughts are with the victims, the injured and their families, to whom I express my deepest condolences,” he said.
“Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values,” President of the European Council Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.
“I am deeply shocked by the terrible attacks in Vienna tonight. The UK’s thoughts are with the people of Austria – we stand united with you against terror,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Terrifying, disturbing reports reach us this evening. Even if the extent of the terror is not yet known, our thoughts are with the injured and victims in these difficult hours. We must not give way to the hatred that is intended to divide our societies,” the German foreign ministry said in a tweet.
“We the French share the shock and grief of the Austrian people,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote. “After France, an ally country has been attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give up.”
France on has been struck by two Islamist attacks in a matter of weeks; a knifeman killed three people last week at a church in Nice and on October 16 a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded after showing cartoons depicting Islam’s prophet in a class on freedom of speech.