A group armed with rifles attacked six different locations in Vienna leaving “several injured, several dead”, Austria’s interior minister said.
Gunmen opened fire on people enjoying a last evening out in the city before a coronavirus lockdown, in a terror attack that left at least two dead – including one of the attackers – and 15 wounded.
Police said several shots were fired shortly after 8pm on a busy street in the city centre, and at least one perpetrator is still on the run.
Karl Nehammer told a press conference said: “Unfortunately, we have several injured, several dead.
“This is the hardest day for Austria in many years. We are dealing with a terrorist attack, the intensity of which we have thankfully not had to experience in Austria for a very long time.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, speaking shortly after gunfire erupted, called the incident a “despicable terror attack”.
He said: “One of the perpetrators was neutralised, 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. It’s definitely a terror attack.”
Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig said 15 people were admitted to hospital, seven with serious injuries.
Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna, said the shooting took place in the street outside the city’s main synagogue but it was not clear whether it had been targeted. The synagogue was closed at the time, he said.
“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Mr Hofmeister said.
“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown,” he added.
“As of midnight, all bars and restaurants will be closed in Austria for the next month, and a lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out.”
Mr Kurz said these were “difficult hours for our republic” and vowed: “Our police will act decisively against the culprits of this despicable terror attack.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that the French “share the shock and grief of the Austrian people hit by an attack tonight”.
“After France, this is a friendly country that has been attacked. This is our Europe … We will not give in,” he wrote.
France has endured three attacks blamed on Muslim extremists in recent weeks.
Authorities in Vienna urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transportation. Police said trams and buses were not stopping and urged social media users not to post videos of the police operation so as not to endanger officers.