A chain of attacks last night sowed terror in the heart of Vienna. Many citizens had taken to the streets to enjoy their last moments of leisure before the second confinement decreed by the coronavirus pandemic, which began last midnight, but what it was going to be a time to enjoy a beer or a concert turned into the city’s biggest terrorist nightmare in 40 years. Around eight in the afternoon, several gunmen began firing machine guns at people sitting on the terraces and inside bars and restaurants in the heart of the city, a few meters from the central synagogue.
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer has confirmed that “at least one Islamist terrorist” participated in the attack and that three citizens – two men and one woman – and one of the attackers, who was killed by the police, were killed. Security forces continue to search for another terrorist “Heavily armed.”
Nehammer has also reported that there are “clear indications” that those responsible for the attack had ties to the Islamic State, although he did not want to give more details as the investigation was ongoing. “He is a radicalized person,” said the Interior Minister, who also pointed out that among the three deaths that have already been registered there is no police officer, as was speculated at first. However, it has confirmed that there is one “seriously injured.”
Likewise, the Austrian Government has reported “numerous house searches” and “various arrests”, although it cannot yet confirm whether the attack was committed by several perpetrators, according to local press. “Austria has been a strong democracy for 75 years, shaped by core values such as tolerance and the rule of law. The attack has been against Austrian democratic values. We will not tolerate it! ”Nehammer said during the last briefing.
Attacked in bars
A witness to the events, Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister, told Efe that he heard “a hundred shots” in the first moments of the attack. “At least one attacker shot people sitting in front of the bars and restaurants. People ran inside in panic but the attacker followed them and continued shooting, “he said.
Videos that circulated on social media, recorded by neighbors from their homes, showed an assailant shooting at a passerby, right in front of the main entrance to the synagogue. The president of the Vienna Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch, told ORF public television that the religious center was closed at the time, as well as the community offices and the adjoining kosher restaurant, thus excluding an exclusive attack on that minority.
In another video, recorded from inside a restaurant in the Swedish square (Schwedenplatz), it is seen how a police officer is killed by shots from a semi-automatic rifle. Hundreds or thousands of people took refuge in the interiors of the premises and restaurants near the synagogue and also in the Vienna Cathedral.
Jasmin, a 17-year-old girl, was having dinner when she noticed people starting to run away. “And suddenly many heavily armed policemen appeared, urging people to go inside restaurants,” he recalled.
Locked in the Opera
A few hundred meters away is the famous Vienna Opera, where the last performance before the lockdown was presented last night, with the theater closing until at least November 30. The 1,000 attendees were still inside close to midnight for security reasons, according to one of the people held there.. The same happened in other concert halls in the capital, such as the Konzerthaus or the Musikverein, located near the scene of the assaults.
According to the Police, shots were registered in six different places in the city center, considered until now as one of the safest and quietest in Europe. The last terrorist attack in Vienna was on August 29, 1981, precisely against the central synagogue, where a command of Palestinian terrorists killed two people.