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Vienna attack: 'Several' killed, many injured, in 'hardest day for Austria'

By Jean Lotus
Vienna attack: 'Several' killed, many injured, in 'hardest day for Austria'
Austrian police officers guard The Vienna State Opera after a shooting near the Stadttempel synagogue in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Austria's interior minister said early Tuesday morning that the death toll in a terrorist shooting in Vienna Monday night has increased.

Karl Nehammer said "several" people had died and at least one of the shooters was still on the loose in a press conference. Nehammer told people to avoid the city center and said school children could stay home and residents should work from home if possible on Tuesday.

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"This is the hardest day for Austria for many years," Nehammer said.

Around 8 p.m., shooters armed with automatic rifles opened fire in multiple locations, including the street near a synagogue, police said.

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One suspected attacker, shot and killed by police outside St. Rupert's church, was carrying an explosive belt and had a bag filled with ammunition. De-mining experts were trying to diffuse the belt, police said.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the incident "definitely a terror attack" and said it had been "very professionally" planned.

Vienna police told residents to "stay home" and avoid public transportation.

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The shooting began in central Vienna in the 1st District Seitenstettengasse neighborhood, including in the street front of the Stadttempel synagogue.

"It cannot be said at the moment whether the city temple was one of the goals," tweeted Oskar Deitch, an Austrian Jewish leader, who asked all temple members to remain inside "until the all-clear from the security authorities."

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City police halted all public buses and subways in central Vienna and told people to shelter in place.

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After bystanders posted photos and videos to social media, police took to Twitter asking them to remove the images and send them to investigators instead.

Mild weather and an impending coronavirus lockdown that was to start at midnight brought many people to the streets in Vienna like Julia Hiermann, who told CNN she was having drinks with a friend in a restaurant. As the shooting began, she said restaurant staff told them to hide in the basement.

"Everyone ran down and then we started realizing what's going on," she said. "This seems unimaginable. When they said shots fired I didn't think this was serious," she added.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that France understood the sorrow felt by the Austrian people.

"After France, it is a friendly country that is under attack," Macron said. "This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will yield nothing."

France has experienced at least two terrorist attacks recently, with the beheading of a Paris school teacher and a fatal stabbing that killed three people at a church in Nice.

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The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted: "We are saddened to receive the news that there are dead and wounded as a result of the terrorist attack that took place in Vienna. We strongly condemn this attack ... extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish speedy recovery to the wounded. As a country that has been fighting against all sorts of terrorism for decades Turkey stands in solidarity with the Austrian people."

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