4 victims died in Vienna attack, Austria declares official period of mourning


A 20-year-old Islamist extremist armed with an automatic rifle and a fake explosive vest ransacked a nightlife district in Vienna hours before a coronavirus lockdown, shooting four people before being killed by police, reported Austrian authorities announced on Tuesday.The suspect in Monday night’s attack has been identified as a young dual Austrian-North Macedonian citizen who has previously been convicted of terrorism for attempting to join the extremist group Islamic State in Syria.

Unverified video showed the suspect, dressed in a white jumpsuit, firing seemingly random bursts as he ran through the cobbled streets of the Austrian capital.

Police arrested several other people and searched 15 houses and apartments, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told Austrian news agency APA.

Nehammer said the video material so far offered no evidence of another attacker but the investigation was ongoing.

He said the number of injured had risen to 22.

Two men and two women died as a result of their injuries in Monday night’s attack, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. He said a police officer who tried to disturb the attacker was shot.

Police officers patrol a Vienna metro station the day after the shooting. (Alex Halada / AFP / Getty Images)

The Vienna Hospital Service said seven people were in a potentially fatal condition on Tuesday after the attack, Austrian news agency APA reported.

“It is now confirmed that yesterday’s attack was clearly an Islamist terrorist attack,” Kurz said. “It was a hate attack – hatred for our core values, hatred for our way of life, hatred for our democracy in which all people have equal rights and dignity.”

Nehammer later told the APA that the dead assailant, who had roots in the Balkan nation of North Macedonia, had previously been convicted under a law that punishes membership in terrorist organizations.

‘Disgusting attack on innocent citizens’

The attacker, named Kujtim Fejzulai, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 for attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. He was granted early release in December under the Juvenile Law.

Nehammer told the APA that Fejzulai posted a photo on his Instagram account before the attack that showed him two of the weapons he allegedly used.

« [The suspect] was equipped with a fake explosive vest and automatic rifle, handgun and machete to carry out this disgusting attack on innocent citizens, ”Nehammer said.

The police check a person after the shooting. (Ronald Zak / The Associated Press)

Authorities were still trying to determine if other attackers might be on the run. Residents of Vienna have been urged to stay at home if possible on Tuesday and the children do not have to go to school. Some 1,000 police officers were on duty in Vienna on Tuesday morning.

The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attack on Vienna on Tuesday, calling its author a “soldier of the caliphate”. The claim of responsibility was published through the media arm of the militant group, Aamaq. He did not elaborate on the attacker’s ties to ISIS and the statement had wording similar to the group’s past opportunistic claims.

In Switzerland, Winterthur city police said that an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old were arrested in consultation with Austrian authorities. Investigators are now trying to determine the nature of the two men’s contact with the Vienna suspect.

3 days of mourning

The shooting began shortly after 8 p.m. local time on Monday near Vienna’s main synagogue, as many people enjoyed a last night of open restaurants and bars before a month-long lockdown against the coronavirus, which started at midnight.

Vienna Police Chief Gerhard Puerstl said the attacker was killed at 8:09 p.m.

Half-empty glasses and cups are seen on a cafe patio after the shoot. (Leonhard Foeger / Reuters)

But authorities continued to search for other potential attackers.

“We will find and prosecute the perpetrators, those behind them and the like-minded people and give them the punishment they deserve,” Kurz said. “We will prosecute anyone who has anything to do with this outrage with any means available. ”

Kurz’s government on Tuesday ordered three days of official mourning, with flags on public buildings to be half-masted until Thursday, the APA reported.

Austria held a minute of silence at noon on Tuesday, accompanied by the sound of bells in the capital. Kurz, President Alexander Van der Bellen and other prominent political figures laid wreaths and candles in the area where the attack took place.

The suspect’s former lawyer intrigued by the attack

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot people sitting outside in street bars under his window near the synagogue.

“They were firing at least 100 bullets right outside our building,” Hofmeister said. “All of these bars have tables outside. Tonight is the last night before the lockout. “

Police officers patrol a cordoned off street after gunfire in downtown Vienna early Tuesday. Police said several shots were fired shortly after 8 p.m. local time on Monday. (Ronald Zak / Reuters)

Fejzulai’s lawyer in the 2019 case, Nikolaus Rast, told public broadcaster ORF that his client had appeared “completely harmless” at the time.

“He was a young man who was looking for his place in society, who apparently went to the wrong mosque, found himself in the wrong circles,” Rast said. “I can’t say exactly what happened. ”

Fejzulai’s family “was not at all strictly religious; the family was not radical – it was a perfectly normal family, ”said Rast. “I still remember the family couldn’t believe what had happened with their son. “

The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders across Europe, including French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has suffered three Islamist attacks in recent weeks, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Britain on Tuesday raised its terrorist threat level to a severe level, its second highest level, after attacks in Austria and France.

The serious threat level means that an attack in the UK is considered highly likely. The level was previously substantial, meaning an attack is considered likely.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday evening as he prepared for his last rally before election day: “Our prayers are with the people of Vienna after another despicable act of terrorism in Europe.”

Egypt Al-Azhar, the first religious institution in the Sunni Muslim world, has condemned the “terrorist attacks” in Vienna. He called on international institutions to “unite” against terrorism and reject violence and hatred.

The Austrian army provided 75 soldiers to guard key sites in Vienna, freeing the police to continue the investigation.


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