The slain gunman was an ISIS ‘sympathizer,’ an official says.
A terrorist attack in central Vienna on Monday night left at least three people dead and many others wounded, including a police officer, government officials said.
One gunman was killed by the police. Austria’s interior minister, Karl Nehammer, called that gunman an Islamic State “sympathizer” at a Tuesday morning news conference. He did not reveal the man’s name, but he said the police had searched his apartment.
The police were still searching for possible accomplices on Tuesday morning, and officials at the news conference urged people to avoid central Vienna.
But they also appeared to raise the possibility that the slain gunman had acted alone, though the authorities had previously said there were multiple attackers. Mr. Nehammer said the gunman killed by the police had been wearing a belt that looked like an explosive device, but later proved to be fake.
At least 15 people were wounded in the attack and were being treated in hospitals, according to the spokesman for the hospital association. At least seven were wounded seriously, according to Vienna’s mayor.
“It is definitely a terror attack,” said Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
The Vienna police initially said the attack, which began around 8 p.m., had involved “several suspects armed with rifles.”
The shootings took place in the heart of the Austrian capital, hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown, one of several being imposed in Europe to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have become the victim of a disgusting terror attack that is still going on,” Chancellor Kurz said in a televised address to the nation just before midnight.
As the night wore on, more gunfire was reported elsewhere across Vienna’s First District. Police officials described a chaotic situation, with several “exchanges of shots.” Emergency vehicles blocked off streets, and a streetcar line through the area was shut down.
The chancellor said he had called in troops to ensure the security of Austria’s official buildings, freeing up the police to “concentrate fully on the fight against terror.”
As the immediate danger passed, the city stayed on edge.
Hours after the attack began, tensions eased slightly as police officers began escorting people who had been trapped in bars and restaurants through security corridors. The opera house and a theater were also evacuated.
But the police maintained a heavy presence in the center of the city as they searched for suspects. More than 150 special police officers and 100 regular duty officers were on duty, and a crisis team in the Interior Ministry was overseeing the response.
“There is a lot to monitor,” Mayor Michael Ludwig said. “Many people are still in the inner city and we have to see that we get as many of them out of there.”
The authorities urged people to stay home and avoid the middle of the city. They also said children would be allowed to stay home from school on Tuesday.