Terror attack in Austria
© REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
Police block a street near Schwedenplatz square after exchanges of gunfire in Vienna, Austria on November 2, 2020.
Swathes of Vienna were sealed off while special forces hunted multiple "heavily armed and dangerous" gunmen following a deadly suspected terror attack across six locations.


Two people were killed and fifteen hospitalised - seven with serious injuries - in the attack on the Austrian capital on Monday night, mayor Michael Ludwig told the national broadcaster ORF.

One of the deceased is a suspected perpetrator shot dead by police, and an officer is among the wounded, police said, as their counterparts in neighbouring Czech Republic enacted random border checks in case the perpetrators attempted to flee northwards.

Officials urged those on the streets to "take shelter" and warned the public not to leave their homes or use public transport, as interior minister Karl Nehammer said the "armed and dangerous" perpetrators were mobile and being hunted by special forces units.

The attacks - which come on the eve of a "hard" national lockdown - were all in the vicinity of the city's central synagogue near the Danube river, but it is not clear whether the place of worship was a target amid reports of shots being fired at those sitting outside the bars nearby.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that the government had called in the armed forces to protect public buildings, freeing up police to hunt the perpetrators.

"We are currently going through difficult times in our republic," Mr Kurz wrote on Twitter, thanking all the emergency services risking their lives, "especially today".

"Our police will take decisive action against the perpetrators of this repulsive terrorist attack.

"I am glad that our police officers have already been able to eliminate a perpetrator. We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and will fight these attacks resolutely by all means."

Officers said public transport was not stopping in the city's first district amid a heavy police presence.

The attack - for which there is not yet a clear motive - began on Seitenstettengasse near the Stadttempel synagogue, police confirmed.

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

Newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported that an officer guarding the city's central synagogue was among those injured.

The site, which is hidden from plain view, was the target of a terror attack in 1981 which saw two people die and 30 injured when a Bar Mitzvah ceremony was fired upon.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said that he saw at least one person fire shots at people sitting outside bars in the street below his window in the synagogue compound.

"They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building," Mr Hofmeister told The Associated Press.

"All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown," he added.


Comment: Just like the attack in France, which came just as Macron announced its own fresh 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."

Messages of solidarity poured in from other European leaders, with UK prime minister Boris Johnson writing: "We stand united with you against terror."

France's president Emmanuel Macron, who has weathered three attacks in recent weeks, blamed on Islamist terrorists, tweeted: "We French share the shock and grief of the Austrian people hit by an attack tonight."

He added: "This is our Europe. Our enemies need to know who they are dealing with. We won't give in to anything."