Live Updates: 4 Dead; Suspect Was ISIS ‘Sympathizer’
A gunman was killed, and the authorities say that there is no indication of any other attackers having been involved in the shooting rampage in central Vienna.
A man who opened fire in central Vienna on Monday night while armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a machete and wearing a fake explosive device was a 20-year-old Austrian citizen who had sought to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a news briefing on Tuesday.
The rampage left four dead and 22 others wounded in the heart of the Austrian capital before the gunman was killed by the police nine minutes after the assault began, Mr. Nehammer said, adding that the evidence gathered so far showed no indication that others were involved.
The minister said that the suspect had been arrested once before after trying to travel to Syria to join ISIS. The man was sentenced to 22 months in prison for that attempt but was released early, raising questions about how someone on the radar of the authorities had managed to carry out such an attack.
Austrians vowed that the attacker would not divide their society or destroy their democracy. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria said in an address to the nation on Tuesday morning that the shooting was “definitely an Islamist terrorist attack,” which he called “an attack out of hatred, hatred for our basic values.”
“We often see ourselves as a blessed island where violence and terror is only known from abroad,” he said. “But the sad truth is: Even if we live in a generally safe country, we don’t live in a safe world.”
The Austrian government announced a three-day period of official mourning, beginning on Tuesday, in which flags on public buildings will be lowered to half-staff. A minute’s silence was held at noon.
On Tuesday morning, Harald Sörös, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said that a second woman had died of her injuries, bringing the number of victims to four. Twenty-two people were wounded, Mr. Nehammer later confirmed.
Monday’s violence comes after recent terror attacks in France — including the beheading of a teacher and a knife attack at a church — that have both been linked to Islamist extremists. But Mr. Kurz warned against making assumptions about the Muslim community.
“This is no fight between Christians and Muslims, or between Austrians and migrants,” he said. “This is a fight between civilization and barbarism.”
Ümit Vural, president of the Islamic Faith Community in Austria, condemned the “cowardly, revolting attack,” calling it “an attack on our Vienna” and “an attack on all of us.”
“Our democracy, our freedom and liberal order is stronger than violence and terror,” he said.
What do we know about the gunman who was killed, and the others arrested?
The attacker was a 20-year-old Vienna-born man, who is ethnically Albanian and whose parents came from North Macedonia, Karl Nehammer, the Austrian interior minister, said on Tuesday. The man was known to the authorities and had previously been convicted of attempted jihad and attempted membership in a terror organization, after he tried — and failed — to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
The man was sentenced to 22 months in prison but only served a few, Mr. Nehammer said. Evidence found in the suspect’s home, including a stockpile of munitions, indicated that he had lived a split life — presenting himself to the world as fully integrated into society, while clearly embracing radicalism in private, the minister said.
“There were no warning signs about his radicalization,” Mr. Nehammer added, vowing to review the justice system to try to ensure that a similar situation would not happen again.
Before the attack, the man posted a photograph of himself to social media, wielding a machete and a rifle with a message that “clearly indicated his sympathy for I.S.,” the minister said, using an abbreviation for the Islamic State.
Nikolaus Rast, who represented the man when he was on trial in 2018 for attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS, said that there had been no indication that he was dangerous. His client had planned to travel to Syria to join the extremist group with a friend, but he only got as far as Turkey and was soon arrested and taken back to Austria, Mr. Rast said.
There had been no sign that his parents shared his extremist views, and the man’s mother had been the one to alert the authorities when her son first went missing at that time, Mr. Rast added.
Mr. Rast said that his client’s remorse after returning to Austria seemed genuine and that his behavior in prison was such that he was released after only about a year of his 22-month sentence. The man took part in a special de-radicalization program, the lawyer added.
“He gave the impression of a young man who was searching for who he was,” Mr. Rast said. “At no point did I have the impression that he was dangerous.”
At least 14 people who are linked to the suspect have been detained and are being questioned, and 18 locations are being searched, Mr. Nehammer said in the afternoon briefing. Several raids were carried out, mostly in Vienna, but also in St. Pölten, an hour west of the city, and in Linz, about 115 miles west of the capital.
The view from Vienna, a bustling capital gone quiet.
The cobbled streets of the center of Vienna, normally full of tourists, government employees and other citizens, was largely empty on Tuesday, save for hundreds of heavily armed police officers. School attendance was optional and residents were encouraged to stay home.
Church bells rang out at noon, as the city paused for a moment to honor the victims. Among them, Austria’s largest church bell — the “Pummerin,” which hangs in the northern tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and is only used for special events — rang out.
The attack on Monday came hours before the country entered a lockdown to combat the coronavirus, with many people having gathered outdoors in Vienna before it came into force. Hundreds of others were trapped in the city’s famed opera house and the national theater, both of which were evacuated by the police hours after the curtains had fallen.
“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 of that changed in a moment. People scrambled from the streets to shelter in restaurants, and all trams and subways in the city’s center were halted as the police urged residents to shelter in place.
The sound of sirens and helicopters filled the night air as people struggled to absorb what was happening.
Said Farnaz Alavi, 34, a human resources consultant in Vienna, said, “We are in shock.”
Mr. Kurz said in his speech Tuesday morning that the gunman had killed four people at close range — an older man, an older woman, a younger man passing by and a waitress working in a restaurant.
But he also urged citizens to remember that “our enemy is never all those belonging to a religion, our enemy is never all the people that come from a particular country” but rather “our enemy is extremists and terrorists.”
“They do not belong in our society,” he added.
With the target unclear, the authorities discouraged speculation.
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 the attack’s intended target, or targets, was unclear.
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. Jewish institutions across the city were closed on Tuesday, the Jewish Community of Vienna said on its website.
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.”
As news of the attack unfolded, several people posted dramatic videos on social media of what appeared to be the shooting and its aftermath.
One showed people helping a wounded person who was lying in a pool of blood, just outside a restaurant on Ruprechtsplatz and less than a mile from the Austrian Parliament. Several chairs in the restaurant’s outdoor area had been overturned, as if abandoned in a hurry.
Another video showed a man emerging from a bar or restaurant, then firing a rifle twice down a street. And a separate 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.
The Vienna police, in a post on Twitter, pleaded with witnesses not to post videos and pictures to social media, but instead to send them to the authorities.
Austria — and Vienna in particular — has been a target over the years for terrorist attacks, often with deadly outcomes. Religious and political tensions, sometimes with no clear connection to Austria, have led to sporadic violence.
In 1975, a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in the city was stormed by six men with submachine guns. They killed three people and took at least 60 hostages.
A group that claimed responsibility cast the attack as “an act of political contestation and information” aimed at “the alliance between American imperialism and the capitulating reactionary forces in the Arab homeland.”
In 1981, Heinz Nittel, a leader of the Austrian Socialist party and head of the Austria-Israel Friendship Society, was assassinated outside his home by an assailant associated with a militant Palestinian group.
Two people were killed in 1981 when terrorists attacked a synagogue with grenades and firearms. Just after Christmas in 1985, panic engulfed the Vienna airport when three gunmen stormed the check-in lounge and opened fire with submachine guns, killing three and wounding dozens.
Witnesses at the time said the attack began as an El Al Israel Airlines flight was boarding. The attack appeared to be coordinated with another El Al check-in 10 minutes earlier in Rome.
From 1993 to 1997, a series of mail bombs and other explosive devices, including one that wounded the mayor of Vienna, stoked fears of rising neo-Nazi terrorism in the country. The man who was convicted in the attacks said that his goal had been to create a reunification of German-speaking areas.
Despite being injured, heroic Turk saves policeman in Vienna terror attack
At least 3 people died, 15 more wounded in terror attack in Austria’s capital on Monday evening
A heroic Turk hurled himself into a hail of bullets in Vienna Monday night, risking his life to save both an injured women and a police officer from terrorist attack.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency Tuesday, Recep Tayyip Gultekin said he was hoping to sit in a cafe with his friend Mikail Ozen that fateful night, before a new coronavirus lockdown came into effect.
But when he saw a woman injured by the terrorist attack, he jumped in to move her out of harm’s way, heedless of the risk he would certainly face.
After taking the woman to a safe spot, Gultekin himself was in the line of terrorist gunfire, and took a bullet to the leg.
After speaking to the police and aiding an elderly woman in shock due to the attack, he saw a police officer also injured by the terrorists, and again moved to help, despite his own bullet injury.
“Other policemen were watching, I shouted at them for help, but they didn't do anything.
“I said to Mikail, we’ll handle this,” he related.
After reaching the injured officer, they carried him to an ambulance, said Gultekin: “I was holding him from his back, and Mikail was carrying his feet.”
The officer had been injured between the abdominal cavity and calf and lost a lot of blood, Gultekin said.
The paramedics wanted to take Gultekin to the hospital but he refused because there were many people suffering injuries, he added.
Later, after making his way to the hospital, doctors told Gultekin the bullet pellet might have to stay in his leg as removing it might cause problems.
- ‘Terror is terror everywhere’
Saying that he lives in Austria and makes his living here, Gultekin said: “The police who were injured were my police. The people injured were my people. I give my condolences to the Austrian state and hope the injured people make a quick recovery.”
He added: “If the same thing happens tomorrow, I wouldn’t hesitate to save people. I don’t want to see discrimination between Muslims, Jews, or Christians. Terror has no place in these religions. Terror is terror everywhere.”
Ozan Ceyhun, Turkey’s ambassador in Vienna, hailed the brave young men on Twitter, linking to a Austrian press account of their deeds: “Heroes of the Vienna attack: two men rescued injured police officers.”
At least four people died and 17 more were wounded in the terror attack in Austria’s capital on Monday evening, authorities have confirmed.
The injured include a police officer, according to the Vienna Police Department.
Palestinian saves Austrian policeman in Vienna attack
Osama Joda, 23, risks his live to help wounded police officer during Monday’s terrorist attack
A Muslim immigrant was hailed as a hero in Austria on Tuesday after he helped a wounded police officer during Monday’s terrorist attack.
Osama Joda, a 23-year-old Palestinian, risked his life to help a police officer who was shot by a terrorist in Vienna’s city center.
Joda told daily Kurier that he heard several gunshots while working in a fast food restaurant at Schwedenplatz square.
After seeing a police officer wounded, he helped him to hide behind a concrete block, tried to stop the bleeding, and alerted other police officers.
While the assailant continued shooting at people on the street, Joda helped bringing the wounded police officer to an ambulance.
The Vienna Police thanked Joda by honouring him with a honorary medal.
At least four people were killed and 17 more were wounded in the terror attack that shocked Austria.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the assailant, who was later killed by the police, was a sympathizer of the Daesh/ISIS terror group.
The 20-year-old was known to police as he was arrested last year for attempting to travel to Syria to join the terror group.
He was released from jail in December, due to his young age.
Local media identified him as Kujtim F. , who had both North Macedonian and Austrian citizenship.
I wanted to add that the family of the Palestinian was in the news last year because the mayor of a village refused to let them buy a house in the village because they were muslims (they had to go to court before the mayor reluctantly agreed). Here is the article where this is mentioned (it's in German, couldn't find an article in English)
I hope every other ontd_political member living in Austria is safe as well.