The military is responding after terrorists opened fire in several areas of central Vienna Monday evening, including near a major synagogue and the offices of a Jewish community.
Australian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made an announcement about military response to the attacks, stating: “So that the police can concentrate fully on the fight against terrorism, the federal government has decided that the armed forces will take over the property protection previously carried out by the police in Vienna with immediate effect.”
“We have brought several special forces units together that are now searching for the presumed terrorists. I am therefore not limiting it to an area of Vienna because these are mobile perpetrators,” said Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.
These acts of terror, which occurred hours before the midnight start of a nationwide COVID lockdown, killed up to seven people. Authorities said that several suspects were still at large after midnight.
Both Chancellor Kurz and Interior Minister Nehammer announced that the events were a terror attack with multiple perpetrators.
“We are victims of a repulsive terror attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing,” Kurz said hours after the gunfire erupted.
“One of the perpetrators was neutralized, but several perpetrators appear to still be on the loose. They seem to also, as far as we know, be very well equipped, with automatic weapons. So they were very well prepared,” he added.
Vienna police confirmed that there were six sites of attack, each within the city’s first district, less than 10 minutes’ walk from each other, with multiple attackers. Police initially reported one death and one terrorist killed.
According to eyewitnesses, dozens of shots were fired in the area of Schwedenplatz, where multiple synagogues are located. The Jewish community does not believe that the attack was directed at Vienna’s Jews, however. Oskar Deutch, president of the Jewish Community in Vienna, stated that none of the city’s Jewish institutions appeared to have been hit, and added that there were no casualties among the Jewish community.
But, Kurz said the possibility that the attack was anti-Semitic in nature cannot be ruled out, given the fact that the shooting began outside Vienna’s main synagogue.
According to the Kurier newspaper, at least one of the fatalities was a police officer. Reports also say that at least 15 wounded people were taken to hospitals, in what is seen as the worst attack in Austria in years.
Kurz called the incidents a “repulsive terror attack.”
“We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight these attacks resolutely by all means. The whole country is thinking of the victims, the injured and their families, to whom I express my deepest condolences,” tweeted Kurz.
A video showed at least four apparent terrorists being rounded up by police and arrested, but reports indicate that more were still at large:
#BREAKING: Unconfirmed reports now that the terrorists haven been just captured by the Austrian police in #Vienna!#Vienne #ViennaAttack #synagoge #Israel #Austria #Oesterreich #Wien #synagoge #Hilton #hotel pic.twitter.com/B6M7cw9yZT
— Faruk Firat (@FarukFirat1987) November 2, 2020
According to reporting by the Times of Israel, “Reports said there had been an explosion, with one of the assailants possibly blowing himself up. Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig said the attacker who was killed is suspected to have worn an explosive belt.”
Videos of the attacks being shared on social media showed multiple attackers firing shots, and assailants and cops shouting, as frightened residents looked on from their windows. One video apparently showed a gunman yelling “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic).
The Zionist Organization of America, America’s largest and oldest pro-Israel group, tweeted about the incident:
ZOA calls on everyone including Imams and Rabbis and Christian Clergy and political leaders to support efforts by the French & Austrian governments to root out Islamic terrorists and those who aid and abet them. We also call on them to condemn those who support these massacres.
— Zionist Organization of America (@ZOA_National) November 2, 2020