Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: ‘It was an attack out of hatred’

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

By World Israel News Staff and AP

“It is now confirmed that yesterday’s attack was clearly an Islamist terror attack,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna on Tuesday following an Islamist attack in the nation’s capital on Monday evening.

“‘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,” Kurz said.

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

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

Vienna’s hospital service said seven people were in life-threatening condition, the Austrian news agency APA reported. In total, 17 people were being treated in hospitals, with gunshot wounds but also cuts.

The dead attacker was a 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual national.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer later told APA that the terrorist, who had roots in the Balkan nation of North Macedonia, had a previous conviction under a law that punishes membership in terrorist organizations.

The attacker, Kujtim Fejzulai, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 for trying to travel to Syria to join ISIS. He was granted early release in December under juvenile law.

Nehammer said the terrorist was armed with a machine gun, pistol and a machete. He also wore an explosives vest, which was later deemed to be fake.

“Austria for more than 75 years has been a strong democracy, a mature democracy, a country whose identity is marked by values and basic rights, with freedom of expression, rule of law, but also tolerance in human coexistence. Yesterday’s attack is an attack on just these values,” Nehammer said.

Authorities were still trying to determine whether further attackers may be 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 Nehammer. The 28-year-old officer was in the hospital but was no longer in a life-threatening condition.

The shooting began shortly after 8:00 p.m. local time 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.

The 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.

Unverified footage posted on social media showed a gunman walking through the streets, apparently shooting at people at random, wounding several. It was unclear whether the person seen shooting was the same individual in each video.

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,” Hofmeister said. “All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown.”

The Jewish Community of Vienna, the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (IKG), closed all synagogues in Austria after the terrorist attack. All facilities such as kosher restaurants, supermarkets and Jewish schools in Vienna are also affected, said Erich Nuler, spokesman for the group’s crisis team, Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported.

Leaders from around the world condemned the attack.

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday night as he prepared for his final rally ahead of Election Day: “Our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe.”

“These evil attacks against innocent people must stop,” Trump added. “The U.S. stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three Islamist attacks in recent weeks, and has himself become the focus of Muslim protests, tweeted ““We, the French people, share the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people struck this evening by an attack in the heart of the capital, Vienna.”

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