November 3, 2020 Faith Matters

Vienna attacker had previous terrorism conviction

Five people including an assailant have died and 17 others are wounded after a shooting in the heart of Vienna hours before a coronavirus lockdown started, Austrian authorities said.

The dead attacker was a 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual national who had a previous terror conviction.

Two men and two women died from their injuries after the attack on Monday evening, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. The suspected attacker was shot and killed by police.

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

“It is now confirmed that yesterday’s attack was clearly an Islamist terror attack,” Mr Kurz said. “It was an attack out of hatred — hatred for our fundamental values, hatred for our way of life, hatred for our democracy in which all people have equal rights and dignity.”

Interior minister Karl Nehammer later said that the dead assailant, who had roots in the Balkan nation of North Macedonia, had a previous conviction under a law that punishes membership of terrorist organisations.

The attacker, named as Kujtim Fejzulai, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 because he had tried to travel to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group. He was granted early release in December under juvenile law.

Fifteen house searches have taken place and several people have been arrested, Mr Nehammer said, adding that the attacker “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 are 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.

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

The shooting began shortly after 8pm on Monday near Vienna’s main synagogue as many people were enjoying a last night of open restaurants and bars before a month-long coronavirus lockdown, which started at midnight.

Vienna police chief Gerhard Puerstl said the attacker was killed at 8.09pm.

Mr Kurz said: “We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital.”

His government on Tuesday ordered three days of official mourning, with flags on public buildings to be flown at half-mast until Thursday.

Unverified footage posted on social media showed a gunman walking through the streets, apparently shooting at people at random, wounding several.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said he saw at least one person shoot at people sitting outside at 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.”

Authorities said residents have uploaded 20,000 videos of the attack to police.

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