Politics Regional

Wave of terrorist attacks in Europe: at least 5 dead in Vienna

Until recently, Vienna was known as safe city and had not suffered a terror attack for decades. No wonder it usually took high rankings in global quality of life surveys. The Monday terrorist attacks turn everything upside down.

The attack by Islamist terrorists began shortly after 8 p.m. local time, when the first shots were reported in Seitenstettengasse in downtown Vienna. Here the main synagogue of the Jewish community and the so-called Bermuda Triangle, a busy local district, are located.

The city temple is the main synagogue of Vienna, it is also known as Seitenstettengasse Temple. For security reasons, the temple, like other Jewish institutions in Austria, is constantly secured by the police.

Initially several suspects with rifles, and a total of six crime scenes in the city center were reported by the Vienna State Police Department. The crime scenes included Graben, Fleischmarkt, Bauernmarkt, Salzgries and Morzinplatz.

One perpetrator was shot dead by the police. Later it turned out that, according to the Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer, he was a 20-year-old man with Albanian roots and parents from North Macedonia. His name is Kujtim Fejzulai, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 because he had tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. He was granted early release in December under juvenile law.

Video recordings of several surveillance cameras and eyewitnesses show a suspect dressed up to the head in a white robe. He wore a black headgear, several equipment bags, as well as a rifle and at least one handgun. He also had a dummy explosives belt, as it turned out only later during the autopsy.

Whether there were several assassins or whether the attack was the work of one individual is still unclear or is still kept secret for security reasons. Security circles speak of at least two perpetrators with AK-47 assault rifles.

The shooting began just hours before Austria was to re-impose a coronavirus lockdown to try to slow the spread of Covid-19, and bars and restaurants were packed as people enjoyed a final night of relative freedom.

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told public broadcaster ORF that the incident “appeared to be a terrorist attack” and urged Viennese to remain in their homes.

Nehammer repeated police appeals to residents to keep away from all public places or public transport, and frequent sirens and helicopters could be heard in the city centre as emergency services responded to the incident.

An AFP photographer said that large numbers of police were guarding an area near the city’s world-famous opera house.

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