03 November 2020, The Tablet

New terror attack in Austria

New terror attack in Austria

Police stand guard on a street in Vienna, capital of Austria, where one person was killed and several people were seriously injured in multiple shootings last night.
Photo by Georges Schneider/Xinhua/PA

Islamist terrorists struck at the heart of a major European city on Monday night for the second time in four days. On Thursday last week, three people were murdered at a Nice basilica (see below). Then at 8pm on Monday evening, as residents were out enjoying their “last night of freedom” before a government imposed anti-coronavirus lockdown, a terror attack began in Vienna. 

Gunmen opened fire at multiple locations in the Austrian capital’s 1st district near the Danube Canal, killing four people in what Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday described as a “repulsive terror attack” that was “very professionally planned”. Vienna's hospital service said seven people were in life-threatening condition on Tuesday. In total, 17 people were being treated in hospitals, with gunshot wounds but also cuts.

An attacker was shot dead by police shortly after 8pm on Monday outside St Rupert’s Church. He was carrying an assault rifle, handguns and ammunition. His body was also found with an explosives vest, which police later said was fake. 

The shootings began near the Stadttempel synagogue in central Vienna but authorities were unable to confirm whether the attack was anti-Semitic. 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 synagogue.

“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Hofmeister said. 

Austria’s interior minister, Karl Nehammer, said that initial investigations indicated the suspect who was killed had sympathised with Islamic State (IS). Named as Kujtim Fejzulai, 20, he had dual Austrian-Albanian citizenship and was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 because he had tried to travel to Syria to join IS. He was granted early release in December under juvenile law.

“We experienced an attack last night by at least one Islamist terrorist,” Mr Nehammer told reporters but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. After a search of the dead terrorist’s flat police investigations were being carried out in the separate police district in Lower Austria. 

Fifteen house searches have reportedly taken place and several people have been arrested. With the location of several other attackers still unknown, the Austrian army’s elite Jagdkommando unit was called in to assist the police.

The Telegraph newspaper said it had seen video footage showing men dressed in loose fitting beige clothes carrying assault rifles. One of the attackers could be seen shooting a bystander from close range. In another video a police officer fell to the ground after being hit by a bullet. 

In the early hours of Tuesday morning Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, tweeted: “In these dramatic moments I and many others are praying for the victims and the emergency services and we are praying that there should be no more bloodshed.”

Chancellor Kurz tweeted: “We must always be aware that this is not a dispute between Christians and Muslims or between Austrians and migrants.” That response was in sharp contrast with a tweet from President Emmanuel Macron on Monday evening. “Nos ennemis doivent savoir a qui ils ont affaire. Nous ne cederons rien,” the French President declared. (“Our enemies need to know who they are dealing with. We will surrender nothing.”)

Mr Kurz on Tuesday ordered three days of official mourning, with flags on public buildings to be flown at half-staff until Thursday

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