Four people were killed in an apparent ISIS-inspired Islamist terror attack in Vienna as revellers marked the last night before a coronavirus lockdown.
Police shot and killed an attacker who was carrying an illegal AK-47 assault rifle and wearing a fake suicide belt, and launched a massive search, involving 1,000 officers, for potential accomplices.
As of Tuesday afternoon there was no evidence of a second gunman, said Karl Nehammer, Austria’s interior minister.
Born and raised in Austria, gunman Kujtim Fejzulai was prevented from travelling to Syria to join ISIS in 2018, and pledged allegiance to the terror group as he posed with his weapons in an Instagram post shortly before the attack.
He was jailed in April 2019 for a terrorism offence, but was released early just eight months later due to his young age.
Two men and two women were killed in Monday night’s rampage, and at least 23 were injured, including three who were still fighting for their lives in hospital on Tuesday. A 28-year-old police officer was among the wounded, and his injuries were not life-threatening.
At least one gunman opened fire at six different locations in Austria’s capital, where residents have been urged to stay off the streets amid the police operation.
It is understood that at least 14 people have been arrested and at least 18 properties have been raided by police.
The suspect was known to domestic intelligence services and “deceived everyone” when he took part in a deradicalisation programme before he was released from jail late last year.
This evening, ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attack.
Here is everything we know about the attack so far.
The massacre carried out by at least one “Islamist” gunman started near the Stadttempel synagogue in central Vienna at about 8pm local time, according to officials
Chilling footage shows a gunman, armed with an automatic assault rifle, shooting a young man in a cobblestone street outside what appeared to be a bar on the street housing the capital’s main synagogue.
The killer then returns and shoots the man with a handgun at close range as the victim lay on the ground.
Witnesses said the attacker or attackers fired into crowds into crowds in bars as revellers enjoyed the final night before a Covid-19 lockdown.
They said they saw a man shoot “like crazy” before police arrived, according to public broadcaster ORF.
The gunman or gunmen attacked six locations in central Vienna, with one of the terrorists being shot dead at about 8.09pm, about nine minutes after the incident began.
Reports said the attacker was killed by a special police tactical unit that is overseen by the Ministry of the Interior.
The terrorist was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a handgun and a machete, and wearing a fake explosive belt.
“The assault is considered to have an Islamistic motive,” Vienna’s police force tweeted.
Austria is part of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS formed in 2014.
Heroes Recep Tayyip Gultekin and Mikail Ozer, both MMA fighters, saved the lives of a police officer and a woman by carrying them to safety.
Mr Gultekin said they heard gunshots and went towards the commotion when they saw the attacker shoot the woman.
He told the Anadolu news agency: “After I carried the woman to a nearby restaurant, the terrorist pointed his gun at me.”
Mr Gultekin said he threw himself to the ground to avoid being shot, but was hit in the leg.
The friends later carried a wounded police officer to an ambulance.
Who was responsible?
Mr Nehammer, the interior minister, named the dead gunman as Fejzulai, a 20-year-old dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia who was a “radicalised” ISIS sympathiser.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Tuesday night, according to France24.
Shortly before he launched his attack, Fejzulai posted an Instagram photo showing him with the AK-47 and handgun that he used to kill his victims. In the caption, he pledged allegiance to ISIS.
He was a talented footballer in his teens, but was radicalised in recent years, according to reports.
On Monday night, Mr Nehammer described it as an “Islamist terrorist” incident, saying that one “heavily armed and dangerous” attacker was still believed to be at large.
He said on Tuesday there was no evidence so far of a second gunman.
Video material was seized during a raid at the killer’s apartment in Vienna, and police were investigating his potential connections.
Journalist Florian Klenk, editor-in-chief of the weekly local newspaper Falter, said Fejzulai was born and raised in Vienna to ethnic Albanian parents from North Macedonia.
Mr Klenk said the man was known to Austria’s intelligence service as one of about 90 Islamists who wanted to travel to Syria.
But police did not think he was capable of carrying out an attack in Vienna, Mr Klenk claimed.
Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in April 2019 after he was arrested in Turkey in 2018 while attempting to join ISIS in Syria.
He made it as far as an ISIS safe house near Turkey’s border with Syria, but was arrested as he tried to cross the border and was sent back to Austria, a court heard in April last year.
His mum reported him to the police after he became radicalised, said lawyer Niki Rast, who represented him in the 2019 court case.
Fejzulai took a deradicalisation programme in prison before he was freed.
His former lawyer told the Austrian newspaper Heute: “His own mother had reported him because he had been radicalised. He then deceived everyone and was conditionally dismissed.
“I could in no way foresee the act. I condemn it and feel for the bereaved.”
Under rules governing youth sentences, Fejzulai was released early in December 2019 due to his young age.
Mr Nehammer said Fejzulai had attended a deradicalisation programme, but that “despite all the outward signs that he was integrating into society, the assailant apparently did exactly the opposite”.
His neighbours told Heute that they were woken up by a loud explosion at 1.30am on Tuesday as police blew open the door to his flat at a community housing block.
Who was killed?
Two men and two women, all civilians, were killed in the attack.
The victims were “an elderly man an elderly woman, a young male passerby and a waitress”, said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
At least 23 people were injured. The injuries included gunshot wounds, stab wounds and cuts.
Three were fighting for their lives in hospital. Ten others were being treated and 10 have been released.
A 28-year-old police officer was seriously injured, but his condition was not life-threatening, officials said.
Mr Kurz said: “The attack yesterday was clearly an Islamic terror attack. This is not a conflict between Christians and Muslims or between Austrians and migrants.
“No, this is a fight between the many people who believe in peace and the few (who oppose it). It is a fight between civilisation and barbarism.”
Who are police looking for?
A huge operation involving 1,000 officers is underway to find potential accomplices.
There were fears at least one additional gunman was on the run.
Special forces from neighbouring countries were helping in the operation and reinforcements had been called in from neighbouring Austrian states. German stepped up checks at its border with Austria.
On Monday night, Mr Kurz said there were “several suspects”.
He pledged in a televised address on Tuesday to “hunt down the perpetrators and those who stand behind them”.
It is understood that at least 14 people have been arrested, including two in St Poelten, a city about 35 miles west of Vienna.
The youngest was aged 16.
At least 18 properties, including the dead gunman’s flat, were being searched.
The army was guarding sensitive sites in the capital to free up police for the operation.
How did the terrorist obtain the AK-47?
A report by Heute claims the terrorist bought the AK-47 and ammunition for it in neighbouring Slovakia.
The report claims the man and a friend travelled to Slovakia in mid-July to buy ammunition for the automatic rifle, suggesting the attack had been planned for months.
What should Vienna residents do?
Mr Nehammer urged Vienna residents to stay off the streets.
All synagogues in Austria have closed as a precaution, as well as schools in Vienna.
Police sealed off much of the historic centre of the city, urging the public to shelter in place.
Many sought refuge in bars and hotels, while public transport throughout the old town was shut down and police scoured the city.
Austria’s government has declared three days of mourning.
The capital had been spared the kind of deadly militant attacks that have struck Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels, among others, in recent years.
The massacre in Vienna came after a series of deadly terror attacks in France last month.