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At least one Islamic State sympathiser behind Vienna attack, Austrian minister says

At least one Islamic State sympathiser behind Vienna attack, Austrian minister says

Armed police at the scene of a shotting in Vienna, Austria, on Nov 3, 2020. (Photo: AP/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA: Attacks across central Vienna, in which gunmen killed at least five people and injured several others, were carried out by at least one Islamic State sympathiser, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Tuesday (Nov 2). 

In an early morning televised news conference, Nehammer repeated calls for the public to stay at home. 

The attacker, who was wearing an explosives belt that turned out to be fake, was shot to death by police. 

A thousand security personnel have been deployed for the manhunt for the other attackers, while neighbouring countries have offered assistance, said the minister. 

READ: Czechs launch border checks after Vienna attack: Police

READ: Support pours in for Austria after terror attack

"We experienced an attack yesterday evening from at least one Islamist terrorist," Nehammer said, adding that the attack was an attempt to weaken or divide Austria's democratic society.

"Austria for more than 75 years has been a strong democracy, a mature democracy, a country whose identity is marked by values and basic rights, with freedom of expression, rule of law, but also tolerance in human coexistence," he said. 

"Yesterday's attack is an attack on just these values."

Gunmen attacked six locations in central Vienna on Monday evening, starting outside the main synagogue. Witnesses described the men firing into crowds in bars with automatic rifles, as many people took advantage of the last evening before a nationwide curfew was introduced because of COVID-19.

Broken glass at the entrance of a car park at the scene of a shooting in Vienna, Austria, on Nov 3, 2020. (Photo: AP/Ronald Zak) Austria Vienna Attack

Police confirmed on Tuesday that three civilians - two men and a woman - were killed in the attacks with at least 15 others wounded, including a police officer. Broadcaster ORF later said a fourth civilian, a woman, had died.

The APA news agency quoted police as saying two arrests had been made in the nearby town of St Poelten. The Kurier news site reported that heavily armed police had searched two properties.

The gunman that was shot dead by police had served a prison term for attempting to travel to Syria and join Islamic State, the interior ministry said. 

It confirmed a report by APA saying the man - who has double North Macedonian-Austrian nationality - had been sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019.

In December 2019, he had was released early due to his young age, according to the report.

Speaking to ORF, Kurz said the attackers "were very well equipped with automatic weapons" and had "prepared professionally".

He also tweeted: "Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this repulsive terror attack.

"We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight this attack with all means."

Kurz said that while police were concentrating on an anti-terror operation, the army would take over the security of major buildings in Vienna.

Police sealed off much of the historic centre of Vienna overnight, urging the public to shelter in place. Many sought refuge in bars and hotels, while public transport throughout the old town was shut down and police scoured the city.

READ: Gunmen kill three in 'terror attack' in Vienna, manhunt launched

Nehammer said the home of the known assailant had been searched and video material seized. Vienna's police chief declined to provide further details on the attacker's identity, citing potential endangerment of the investigation.

Austria's capital had so far been spared the kind of deadly militant attacks that have struck Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels, among others, in recent years.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna's Jewish community, which has offices adjoining the synagogue on a narrow cobbled street dotted with bars, said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the temple or offices were targeted but that they were closed at the time.

The government announced three days of national mourning, and a minute's silence at noon. 

Three investigators at the scene following gunfire in the Austrian capital Vienna, on Nov 3, 2020. (Photo: AP/Ronald Zak) Austria Vienna Attack

Videos circulated on social media of a gunman running down a cobblestone street shooting and shouting. 

One showed a man gunning down a person outside what appeared to be a bar on the street housing the synagogue.

Condolences poured in from around the world, with top officials from the European Union, France, Norway, Greece and the United States expressing their shock at the attacks.

US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that "our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe".

"These evil attacks against innocent people must stop. The US stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists."

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned what he called a "horrific terrorist attack," adding, "We must all stand united against hate and violence."

Source: Reuters/ad


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