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22nd May 2022

EU condemns 'despicable' shooting in Vienna

  • Austrian police urged people to stay indoors while they were looking for other suspects. The 20-year-old attacker was shot dead by police (Photo: Roderick Eime)

Leaders in Europe on Tuesday (3 November) condemned the shooting attack in Vienna, calling for a joint stance against terrorism.

On Monday, the eve of new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, a gunman opened fire in the Austrian capital in an attack that left four dead and some 20 people injured.

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Austrian police then urged people to stay indoors while they looked for other possible suspects in connection to the 20-year-old "Islamist terrorist", who was shot dead by police. More than a dozen arrests have been made during searches of several homes.

The suspect, who had both North Macedonian and Austrian citizenship, was convicted last year for trying to join Islamic State. But he was released early from a 22-month prison sentence in December, the authorities said.

Austrian interior minister, Karl Nehammer, said on Tuesday afternoon (3 November) that, so far, there was no sign of a second attacker.

The shooting began just hours before new Covid-19 related-rules entered into force, with many people enjoying the last night of open bars and restaurants before a one-month lockdown.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz described the shootings as a "repulsive terror attack," saying that it was driven by "hatred of our way of life, our democracy".

"This is not a conflict between Christians and Muslims or between Austrians and migrants. 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," he said.

"The enemy, the Islamist terror, wants to split our society, but we will give no space to this hatred," he added.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen spoke with Kurz on Tuesday and condemned the "despicable attack" in Vienna.

"The European family stands firmly by Austria. We will relentlessly fight terrorism, together," she wrote on Twitter.

EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell, meanwhile, referred to the events as "a cowardly act of violence and hate".

The Vienna shooting comes amid a wave of terror attacks in the bloc. Last month, French history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside a school in Paris, and a German tourist was stabbed to death in Dresden, while a separate knife attack in Nice left three people dead.

"We, the French, share the shock and the grief of the Austrian people struck this evening by an attack in the heart of their capital, Vienna. After France, it is a friendly country that is attacked," said French president Emmanuel Macron, adding that the bloc will not "give up" its European values.

While condemning the attack, German chancellor Angela Merkel offered support to its neighbouring country, saying that "Islamist terrorism is our common enemy [and] the fight against these murderers and their instigators is our common fight".

Earlier this year, the commission presented its five-year EU security strategy, including a new agenda which aims to fight terrorism by expanding Europol's mandate, better-addressing radicalisation and strengthening safety in public spaces.

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