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Austria hunts suspects after ‘Islamist terrorist’ attack in Vienna

A gunman shot dead by police has been identified as a 20-year-old “Islamist terrorist”. He was released early from jail in December.

Austrian police have urged people to stay indoors as they hunt for suspects after a multiple gun attack in the capital Vienna that killed four people.

Seven of the 17 people wounded have life-threatening injuries. Gunmen opened fire at six locations in the city centre on Monday evening.

Two men and two women were shot dead.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said those victims were an elderly woman, an elderly man, a young male passer-by and a waitress.

It was clearly an attack driven by “hatred of our way of life, our democracy”, the chancellor said. He earlier spoke of a “repulsive terror attack”.

The nation was engaged not in a battle between Christians and Muslims, he stressed, but “between civilisation and barbarism”.

World Terror and Islamic State connection

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer described the dead gunman as an “Islamist terrorist”, jailed for 22 months in April 2019 after trying to get to war-torn Syria to join Islamic State (IS) jihadists. The 20-year-old had been released early last December under more lenient terms for young adults.

Mr Nehammer urged Austrians to “please stay at home if possible” during the police operation and “avoid the inner city”. Children should stay at home, not go to school on Tuesday, he said.

The victims were in a city centre area busy with people in bars and restaurants, near Vienna’s central synagogue.

Police cordoned off some streets and brought in reinforcements. They are also being helped by the Austrian army.

Addressing a news conference, Mr Nehammer said police had searched the home of the dead gunman and seized video material. He had been wearing a fake explosive belt, police tweeted.

The man was originally from North Macedonia and had a previous conviction for terrorist association, Mr Nehammer said. He had both Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship.

Several arrests were made during searches of 15 nearby homes. Two suspects were also arrested in St Pölten, a town to the west of Vienna.

The Vienna shooting comes after a spate of Islamist attacks in France.

Earlier, the minister said at least one “heavily armed and dangerous” attacker was believed to be still at large. Officials were quoted as saying there could have been as many as four attackers.

The attack came hours before Austria imposed new national restrictions to try to stem rising cases of coronavirus. Many people were enjoying drinks and eating out before a midnight curfew.

Police named six crime scenes in central Vienna: Seitenstettengasse and nearby Morzinplatz, Salzgries, Fleischmarkt, Bauernmarkt and Graben. The suspect was shot dead near St Rupert’s Church.

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