July 27, 2021

Vienna terror attack: Gunman named as convicted terrorist

Austria’s top security official said Tuesday that evidence gathered so far shows no indication that there was a second assailant in the deadly attack in Vienna.

The announcement came after a manhunt was launched in Vienna on Tuesday amid concerns some of those behind a suspected Islamist terror attack that killed four people still remain at large.

A gunman shot dead by police during Monday night’s attack was named by local press as Kujtim Fejzulai, a 20-year-old Austrian who had previously been jailed for attempting to join Islamic State.

There were unconfirmed reports he may have announced the attack in advance by pledging allegiance to IS on his Instagram account.

Earlier, police believed he may not have acted alone and up to four more gunmen could still be at large in the city, Karl Nehammer, the interior minister said.

However, Mr Nehammer later said video evidence being examined “does not at this time show any evidence of a second attacker.”

People were warned to stay inside their homes and children were allowed to take the day off school. Public transport was operating under tight security.

Fourteen people had been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon, including two in the neighbouring city of St Pölten.

Austrian police made 18 raids, including the dead gunman’s home in eastern Vienna, where police carried out a controlled explosion on the door in case of booby traps.

Four people were killed and 17 injured when gunmen opened fire at a series of six locations around central Vienna on Monday night.

The city’s pubs and restaurants were packed with people enjoying a last meal out before Austria began a new coronavirus lockdown.

The dead included an elderly couple, a young male passer by and a waitress. Seven of the injured remained in critical condition on Tuesday morning.

“The enemy, Islamist terror, wants to divide our society. We will not give any space to this hatred,” Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, said in an address to the nation.

“Our enemy are not members of a religious community, but terrorists. This is not a fight between Christians and Muslims or Austrians and migrants, but a fight between civilization and barbarism.”

Fejzulai, the dead gunman, was born in Vienna to an immigrant family from North Macedonia. He is believed to have had roots in the Balkan country’s large Albanian community, the majority of which is Muslim. He held dual Austrian and North Macedonian nationality.

He was jailed for 22 months last year for attempting to travel to Syria and join Islamic State but released early last December.

Austrian forensic started police work on Tuesday morning as a huge manhunt was still underway - HERBERT PFARRHOFER/APA/AFP via Getty Images

At his trial it emerged that he became radicalised in his teens when he started to attend an extremist mosque. He and a friend planned to travel to Afghanistan in 2018 to join Islamic State forces there. They bought airline tickets but were unable to obtain Afghan visas.

Fejzulai then travelled to Turkey alone in an attempt to cross the border to Syria and join IS. He was arrested by Turkish police at an IS safe house near the border.

There were reports he announced the attack in advance by posting a series of images on his Instagram account, including one of him posing with a gun and a caption pledging allegiance to IS.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attended a wreath-laying ceremony on Tuesday  - REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

A second image showed the Arabic word baqiya spelled out in cartridge shells. The word is part of an IS motto that translates as “enduring and expanding”.

Austrian police believe he may have had between one and four accomplices who remain at large. Investigators were drawing up a detailed timeline of the attacks on Tuesday to determine how many gunmen would have been necessary to carry them out.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that “we are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital.”

Police cars and policemen in central Vienna after the shooting - AFP

He added in a tweet: “But we must always be aware that this is not a dispute between Christians and Muslims or between Austrians and migrants. This is a struggle between the many people who believe in peace and the few who want war.”

His government on Tuesday ordered three days of official mourning, with flags on public buildings to be flown at half-staff until Thursday, APA reported. A minute of silence was to be held at noon Tuesday.

As the attack unfolded on Monday night, he tweeted: “We are currently experiencing difficult hours in our republic. I would like to thank all the emergency forces who are risking their lives for our safety, especially today. Our police will take decisive action against the perpetrators of this repulsive terrorist attack.”

The Austrian army’s elite Jagdkommando unit was called in to assist the police.

“It is imperative that we use all our available forces to ensure that the state imposes itself,” the Chancellery said.

Video footage seen by the Telegraph shows what seemed to be several men dressed in loose fitting beige clothes carrying assault rifles.

Heavily armed police stand outside the Vienna State Opera - Michael Gruber/Getty Images

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,” Mr Hofmeister 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.

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

“The Islamist terror is our common enemy,” Mrs Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted. “The battle against these murderers and their instigators is our common fight.”

Germany has stepped up checks at its border with Austria following the shootings

Tightened controls at the border is now a “tactical priority” for the federal police force, a spokesman for German federal police said.

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