Vienna attacker had previous terrorism conviction

Vienna attacker had previous terrorism conviction
Armed police in Vienna, Austria (Ronald Zak/AP)

A fourth person has died following a shooting in Vienna which authorities said involved an attacker with a previous terrorism conviction.

Austria’s top security official said the attacker killed in the incident was a 20-year-old dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia.

Interior minister Karl Nehammer said two men and two women have died from injuries sustained in the attack. The suspected attacker was shot and killed by police.

Vienna’s hospital service said seven people were in a life-threatening condition after the attack, the Austrian news agency APA reported. In total, 17 people were being treated in hospitals, with gunshot wounds but also cuts.

Mr Nehammer said that initial investigations indicate the suspect who was killed had sympathised with the so-called Islamic State group.

“We experienced an attack last night by at least one Islamist terrorist,” Mr Nehammer told reporters. He declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

Mr Nehammer later told APA that the dead assailant, who had roots in the Balkan nation of North Macedonia, had a previous conviction under a law that punishes membership in terrorist organisations.

Fifteen house searches have taken place and several people have been arrested, he added.

The attacker, he said, “was equipped with a fake explosive vest and and an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete to carry out this repugnant attack on innocent citizens”.

Authorities are still trying to determine whether further attackers may be on the run. 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.

Police officers near a synagogue in Vienna (Ronald Zak/AP)

Among those wounded in the attack was a police officer, said Mr Nehammer. The 28-year-old officer is in hospital but is no longer in a life-threatening condition.

The shooting began on Monday evening near Vienna’s main synagogue as many people were enjoying a last night of open restaurants and bars before the start of a coronavirus lockdown.

“We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside bars in the street below his window near the city’s main synagogue.

“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” he said.

“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown.”

The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country also experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks.

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 soldiers to guard key sites in Vienna, freeing up police to continue the investigation. Germany and Hungary have offered to send tactical police units to support their Austrian colleagues.

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