The gunman killed during a deadly terrorist attack in the Austrian capital Vienna served a prison term for attempting to reach Syria to join Islamic State, the Government says.
- Two men and two women were shot dead, in addition to the armed attacker
- The suspect was later identified as an Islamic State sympathiser by Austria’s Interior Ministry
- Vienna residents have been told to stay at home as the search for other suspects continues
The Interior Ministry in Vienna confirmed a report by APA news agency saying the man had been sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019.
In December 2019, he was released early due to his young age, according to the report, which cited Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.
The 20-year-old was shot dead by police near St Ruprecht’s Church in Vienna during a shooting rampage on Monday evening local time, the report said.
Four people died in the terrorist attack, aside from the 20-year-old gunman, and 17 others were wounded in a shooting in the heart of Vienna hours before a coronavirus lockdown started.
Mr Nehammer said two men and two women died from their injuries in the attack, while the city’s hospital service said seven people remained in a life-threatening condition.
“We experienced an attack last night by at least one Islamist terrorist,” Mr Nehammer told reporters.
Authorities are still trying to determine whether further attackers may be on the run, he said.
People in Vienna were urged to stay at home if possible on Tuesday and children did not have to go to school. Some 1,000 police officers were on duty in Vienna on Tuesday morning.
Among those wounded in the attack was a police officer, Mr Nehammer said. The 28-year-old officer was in the hospital but was no longer in a life-threatening condition.
The shooting began shortly after 8:00pm on Monday near Vienna’s main synagogue as people were enjoying a last night of open restaurants and bars before a month-long coronavirus lockdown, which started at midnight.
Vienna police chief Gerhard Puerstl said the attacker was killed at 8:09pm.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said: “We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital.”
Unverified footage posted on social media showed a gunman walking through the streets, apparently shooting at people at random, wounding several. It was unclear whether the person seen shooting was the same individual in each video.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside at bars in the street below his window near the city’s main synagogue.
“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Rabbi Hofmeister said.
“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown.”
Authorities said residents had uploaded 20,000 videos of the attack to police.
The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The Islamist terror is our common enemy,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted.
“The battle against these murderers and their instigators is our common fight.”
US President Donald Trump tweeted as he prepared for his final rally ahead of election day: “Our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe.”
“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop,” Mr Trump added. “The US stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists.”
Austria’s military has provided 75 soldiers to guard key sites in Vienna, freeing up police to continue the investigation. Germany and Hungary have also offered to send tactical police units to support their Austrian colleagues.