Austria Enters Days of Mourning After Terror Attack; ‘We Don’t Live in a Safe World,’ Says Kurz

By Anna Breuer on 3 November 2020
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The Riesenrad, the ferris wheel that is one of the symbols of the city of Vienna

Austria announced a three-day period of morning after at least five people were killed and 15 were injured after a lone gunman opened fire across Vienna’s city center near the Schwedenplatz Monday evening in what Bundeskanzler Sebastian Kurz termed a “repulsive terrorist attack.”

The attack, which began at 8 p.m. local time, took place several hours before the country was set to return to a partial lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has surged in recent weeks in Europe.

Initial reports of multiple shooters appear to have been incorrect.

The three-day period of mourning began Tuesday with a moment of silence at noon.

Bundeskanzler Sebastian Kurz and Bundespräsident Alexander van der Bellen laid wreaths as a memorial and church bells including the Pummerin in the northern tower of the Stephenskirche, Austria’s largest cathedral, which is only used in special circumstances, rang out at noon.

People were encouraged to stay home and school was made optional for pupils as police swarmed the city looking for more clues into the attack.

At least 14 people were arrested in the aftermath on suspicion that they were linked to the shooting.  Raids were conducted as far as the city of Linz, a city close to the German border that lies 114 miles (182 kilometers) west of Vienna.

In an address to the nation, the Bundeskanzler said that the shooting “was definitely an Islamist terrorist attack,” terming it “an attack out of hatred, hatred for our basic values.”

“Although we are lucky enough to live in a fundamentally safe country,”  Kurz said, “unfortunately, we do not live in a safe world.”

The shooter, whose name was not released at press time, was a 20-year-old Vienna-born man whose parents came from Northern Macedonia. The Austrian intelligence service was aware of the man, as he was one of 90 Austrians who had attempted to join the Islamic State in Syria and was blocked from traveling to the region.

Initial reporters had suggested that the Stadttempel, the city’s main synagogue, was the target of the attack but it was already closed at the time of the attack, as was its office building.  The Stadttempel, also known as the Seitenstettengasse Tempel, was the target of a terror attack in 1981 by the Palestinian group Fatah – The Revolutionary Council, which tried to storm the building but were stopped by security forces.  The president of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien, the Jewish Community Council, Oskar Deutsch, told the newspaper Kurier that no members of the Jewish community were injured in the attacks.

Leaders of England and France, whose countries have seen numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, issued statements of support.

“This is our Europe,” he said. “Our enemies must know with whom they are dealing. We will not retreat.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply shocked by the terrible attacks.”

Jonathan Spira and Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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