Police hunt for gunmen after Vienna rocked by attack that leaves 3 dead, including 1 shooter

Gunmen opened fire on people enjoying a last evening out in Vienna before a coronavirus lockdown Monday in what authorities described as an ongoing terror attack that left at least three dead — including one of the attackers — and 15 wounded.

1 gunman among the dead, but 'several perpetrators appear to still be on the loose,' chancellor says

Several people injured in Vienna shooting


3 months agoVideo
Several people were injured and one person was killed in central Vienna amid exchanges of gunfire on Monday, police said. But it was not clear whether the nearby synagogue and adjoining offices had been the target of the attack. 0:44

Gunmen attacked six locations in central Vienna on Monday starting outside the main synagogue, killing two people and injuring at least 14 in what Austrian authorities called a "repulsive terror attack." Police said they were hunting one or more assailants still on the loose.

Witnesses described the men firing into crowds in bars with automatic rifles as many people took advantage of the last evening before a nationwide COVID-19 curfew was to take effect.

Police shot and killed one assailant and sealed off much of the historic centre of Vienna, urging the public to shelter in place.

Many people sought refuge in bars and hotels while public transport throughout the old town was shut down and police scoured the city.

"We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said hours after the gunfire erupted.

"One of the perpetrators was neutralized, but several perpetrators appear to still be on the loose," he said. "They seem to also, as far as we know, be very well equipped with automatic weapons. So they were very well prepared. It's definitely a terror attack."

A man holds his hands up as police officers check him on a street after exchanges of gunfire in Vienna on Monday. (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

Six sites of shooting

Police said that several shots were fired shortly after 8 p.m. local time on a lively street in the city centre and that there were six shooting locations. Unverified footage posted on social media showed gunmen walking through the streets, apparently shooting at random and wounding several people.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told public broadcaster ORF that the army had been asked to guard key locations in the city to allow police to pursue the gunmen.

"At the moment, I can confirm we believe this is an apparent terror attack," he said.

Kurz praised police for killing one of the attackers and vowed: "We will not ever allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and will fight these attacks with all means."

Authorities gave no indication of the identity of the assailants or the reason for the attack.

WATCH | Several killed in Vienna after gunmen open fire:

Several killed in Vienna in ‘repulsive terror attack’

The National

3 months agoVideo
Several people were killed when multiple gunmen opened fire at six locations in central Vienna on Monday, in what Austria’s chancellor calls a “repulsive terror attack.” 1:28

Border checks were being reinforced, the Interior Ministry said, and children would not be required to attend school on Tuesday. Although people were urged to stay indoors Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig told ORF the city would run normally on Tuesday, albeit with a tougher police presence.

"According to what we currently know, at least one perpetrator is still on the run," Nehammer said.

"We have brought several special forces units together that are now searching for the presumed terrorists. I am therefore not limiting it to an area of Vienna, because these are mobile perpetrators," Nehammer earlier told ORF.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has seen two deadly knife attacks in Paris and Nice in recent weeks, issued a statement expressing shock and sorrow.

"This is our Europe," he said. "Our enemies must know with whom they are dealing. We will not retreat."

French officials have ramped up security after the attacks in Paris and Nice, which had 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 Islamist militant attacks could take place.

Canada condemns attack

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack in a message posted to Twitter, calling it "horrific." 

Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the Vienna synagogue and adjoining offices had been the target of an attack, and said they were closed at the time.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told The Associated Press that he saw at least one person fire shots at people sitting outside bars in the street below his window.

"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. As of midnight, all bars and restaurants will be closed in Austria for the next month and a lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out."

Austria's interior minister says the shootings are believed to be a terror attack. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Kurz said these were "difficult hours for our republic" and vowed: "Our police will act decisively against the culprits of this despicable terror attack."

Police urge public not to share videos

Videos circulated on social media of a gunman running down a cobblestone street shooting and shouting. Reuters could not immediately verify the videos.

Vienna police urged people not to share videos and photos via social media. "This jeopardizes police forces as well as the civilian population," they said on Twitter.

In 1981, two people were killed and 18 injured during an attack by two Palestinians at the same synagogue. In 1985, a Palestinian extremist group attacked Vienna airport with hand grenades and assault rifles, killing three civilians.

In recent years, Austria has been spared the sort of large-scale attacks seen 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 city of Graz. The leader was unhurt.

A large-scale police operation was underway Monday evening in Vienna after gunmen opened fire at six locations around the city centre. (CBC News)

With files from Reuters