Four people died on Monday night in an Islamist attackin Vienna, the Austrian capital, perpetrated by at least one terrorist who was killed and described by Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer as a supporter of the Islamic State (ISIS). Another 22 people were injured, seven of them extremely serious, according to the latest official information.
The Austrian authorities have launched a major operation with a thousand agents looking for other possible terrorists linked to the attack, although they have so far found no evidence of other perpetrators. During the day, the police made 14 arrests around the terrorist, a young man with dual Austrian and Macedonian nationality with a history of radicalization, and made 18 searches in Vienna and the Lower Austria region,
The minister also stressed that the police took just nine minutes to find the man and shoot him after receiving the first notice of shots in the center of the city, which, he stressed, surely a greater massacre was avoided.
Around 20,000 videos of citizens are being analyzed as part of the investigation. Without ruling out that there are more perpetrators, Nehammer has affirmed that for the moment the material collected from the different points of the attack has not revealed the participation of another terrorist.
The Austrian head of the Interior has also confirmed that the deceased attacker was 20 years old, his parents are of Albanian origin, natives of North Macedonia, and also had an Austrian passport.
The man also had a criminal record for terrorist association and was sentenced in April 2019 to 22 months because he wanted to go to Syria to join ISIS. He was on probation since last December.
Nehammer has assured that he managed to “fool” everyone about his de-radicalization and no alarm signals were perceived after his release. In this sense, the minister has assured that the Government will review the system of control and de-radicalization of extremists. According to the senior official, there is a “very clear indication of his closeness to ISIS”,
The Austrian Chancellor, the conservative Sebastian Kurz, highlighted hours earlier in a statement to the media that the capital has suffered “an Islamist attack”, an attack “of hatred” towards the values of a free society and its “model of life” in democracy. Kurz explained that the four fatalities were killed “in cold blood”, and that they are two men and two women.
Some of the injured are seriously injured and there are fears for their lives. The Chancellor has emphasized that Austrian society “will not be intimidated” and has urged not to fall “into the trap” of extremists, who seek to “divide” the citizenry.
“We are not going to allow it,” said the head of the Government, while asking not to fall into the confrontation of “Austrians against migrants” or “Christians against Muslims.”
Early in the morning on Tuesday, downtown Vienna continued to be cordoned off to facilitate search operations for other possible terrorists. Some of the locals that were affected by the attack kept their doors closed this morning.
Although the curfew for the coronavirus that came into force the day before does not begin until 8:00 p.m., few people circulated this Tuesday through the streets of the interior of Vienna, where a strong police and military device had deployed. The Government, which had urged the Viennese to “stay home” this day, has declared three days of official mourning.
The images disseminated on the networks showed a man dressed in a white overalls, with a cap and armed with a rifle and other light weapons, such as a machete, and an explosive vest that turned out to be false.
The videos always showed an individual with that description, so it is unknown if he was always the same or the attack was perpetrated by several terrorists wearing the same clothing. During the night of Monday, shootings were reported in up to six different locations in central Vienna, all in close proximity to each other
Special forces entered the home of the killed attacker during the night, for which they even had to use explosive material. Several arrests have been made in the area of the alleged perpetrator, although their identities are unknown.
The tracking operation has a thousand agents, including police officers from anti-terrorist units, as well as special army teams, who are now in charge of the custody of buildings in Vienna, to hunt down other possible terrorists linked to the attack.
A team of 35 agents is also viewing the 20,000 videos that citizen collaboration provided in the last hours to search for new leads. The police asked that citizens refrain from uploading images to the Internet and hand them over to the authorities.
The attack began at around eight o’clock on Monday afternoon. One of the shootings took place in the vicinity of Seitenstetten Street, near a synagogue that was closed. For this reason, local media pointed out that the objective could be that temple, but the authorities, who offered a press conference, did not confirm it.
Some witnesses said that an attacker had fired at various venues with terraces in the area and that a bystander had been hit. A witness, questioned by a television station, said that he saw “a person running with an automatic weapon, firing” repeatedly. Another spoke of “at least 50 shots.” Several businesses in the area showed gunshot wounds on Tuesday. The surrounding restaurants remained closed,
The Austrian Government quickly confirmed that it was an extremist act. “It’s definitely a terrorist attack,” Foreign Minister Kurz advanced late Monday in a television statement.
The head of Government stated that the attack seemed “well prepared” and reported that Army units had been deployed to protect buildings. In a message on Twitter, the Foreign Minister added that the country was living “very hard hours”, thanked the security forces for their work and assured that the police will act “with determination” against the perpetrators.
The president of the Islamic Community of Austria (IGGÖ, in its initials in German), Ümit Vural, has underlined the condemnation of Muslims to the attack and has called for the union of society against the extremists. “There is no justification for violence. Period ”, he stated in a public statement. There are around 700,000 Muslims living in Austria (out of a total population of about 8.8 million).
The far-right FPÖ party, now in the doldrums since the corruption scandal that led to the breakdown of Kurz’s ruling coalitionWith the training in May 2019, he defends that Islam is not part of Austria and took advantage of the entry of thousands of refugees in the 2015 crisis to intensify his attacks against the Muslim community.
Kurz’s party, the ÖVP, took advantage of the unrest in the population to toughen its immigration policy and also to demand greater control of mosques and their teachings. This Tuesday, the chancellor has emphasized the message of not confusing the terrorists with the Muslim community.
Austria has been on the sidelines in recent years from the wave of attacks that has hit France, Spain or Germany. The last that Vienna suffered occurred on August 29, 1981, precisely against the central synagogue (Stadttempel), where Palestinian terrorists killed two people.
“Our country has more than 75 years of strong democracy, it is a country where freedom of opinion and tolerance are protected,” the minister stressed. The one on Monday night “is an attack on these values and a totally futile attempt to weaken our democracy or divide it,” he added.