‘This is our Europe:’ Defiant Macron leads condemnation of Vienna terror attack

A defiant French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday led international condemnation of the terror attack in Austria, saying that Europe will not give in to extremists.

“We French share the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people following the attack in Vienna,” Macron tweeted in both French and German after an attack by multiple gunmen in Vienna left at least one person dead and several others wounded. Some local media reports put the death toll as high as seven.

“After France, it is a friendly nation that has been attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they’re dealing with. We will concede nothing,” Macron said.

France has endured three attacks blamed on Muslim extremists in recent weeks: one by a Pakistani refugee that injured two people outside satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s old headquarters, the slaying of a schoolteacher who showed students caricatures of the prophet of Islam, and a deadly knife attack last Thursday in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice. France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened investigations into all three, and France is now at its highest level of alert.

Shiite Muslim women march toward the French Consulate during a rally against French President Emmanuel Macron and the republishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad they deem blasphemous, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Macron has continued to support the right to free speech and France’s secular traditions, even in the face of mounting anger and protests around the Muslim world.

There were indications that the attacks in Vienna may also have been carried out by Islamic terrorists.

Videos circulating on social media showed multiple attackers firing shots, and assailants and cops shouting, as frightened residents looked on from their windows.

One video apparently featured a gunman yelling “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic).

Eyewitnesses said dozens of shots were fired in the area of Schwedenplatz, a square located opposite the Carmelite Quarter, where several synagogues are located. The assessment in the Jewish community was that the attack was not directed at Vienna’s Jews, however. Oskar Deutch, president of the Jewish Community in Vienna, told the Kurier news site that none of the city’s Jewish institutions appeared to have been hit. He said there were no casualties among the Jewish community.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the incidents a “repulsive terror attack.”

“We will never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight these attacks resolutely by all means,” tweeted Kurz. “The whole country is thinking of the victims, the injured and their families, to whom I express my deepest condolences.”

Police officers walk to ambulances at the scene after gunshots were heard, in Vienna, November 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Meanwhile, Czech police stepped up checks at the Austrian border and said they had increased security at Jewish institutions in the country.

“Police are carrying out random checks of vehicles and passengers on border crossings with Austria as a preventive measure in relation to the terror attack in Vienna,” Czech police tweeted.

Police added they had stepped up “supervision over major Jewish facilities in the Czech Republic” in a preventive measure that “reflects developments not only in neighboring Austria”.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said in a tweet Czech police were also in touch with Austrian colleagues following the “dreadful news from Vienna”.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis tweeted his condolences over the attack near the Stadttempel synagogue.

“I am horrified by the attack on the Vienna synagogue and I want to express my solidarity to all people in Austria and my friend Sebastian Kurz,” Babis tweeted.

Germany also vowed not to give in to terror.

Police officers stay in position next to a memorial for victims of the Nazi era, after gunshots were heard, in Vienna, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Austrian police say several people have been injured and officers are out in force following gunfire in the capital Vienna. Initial reports that a synagogue was the target of an attack couldn’t immediately be confirmed. Austrian news agency APA quoted the country’s Interior Ministry saying one attacker has been killed and another could be on the run.(Photo/Ronald Zak)

Germany’s foreign ministry said Monday that “we cannot give in to hate that is supposed to divide our societies” following shootings.

“Even if we can’t yet foresee the extent of the terror, our thoughts are with the wounded and the victims in these difficult hours,” the ministry wrote on Twitter, calling the news from neighboring Austria “horrifying and disturbing.”

European Union chief Charles Michel slammed the shootings as “cowardly”.

Europe “strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values,” European Council chief Michel tweeted.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Austria in these tragic and very hard hours.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Austrian population due to this terrible terror attack in Vienna,” tweeted Israel’s Ambassador to Austria, Mordechai Rodgold. “Our sympathies to the families of the victims. In these difficult hours, Israel stands with Austria in full solidarity.”

The attack by multiple gunmen in Vienna left at least one person dead and several others wounded late Monday, officials said. One attacker was killed.

Women run away from the first district near the state opera, central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP)

Police in the Austrian capital said several shots were fired shortly after 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) in a lively street in the city center and that there were six different shooting locations. Austria’s top security official said authorities believe there were several gunmen involved and that a police operation was still ongoing.

“It appears to have been a terror attack,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told public broadcaster ORF, adding that the perpetrators were armed with rifles. “I can confirm that there were several injured and that there are probably also deaths among them.”

Vienna police tweeted: “One deceased person, several injured (1 officer included).” They added that one suspect had been shot and killed by police officers.

The Austria Press Agency earlier quoted ambulance service spokesman Daniel Melcher saying there were several dead and injured, though he was unable to provide a number yet.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of the Jewish community in Vienna, said the shooting took place in the street where the city’s main synagogue is located but that it wasn’t clear whether the house of worship had been targeted. The synagogue was already closed at the time of the shooting, Deutsch tweeted.

Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told The Associated Press that he saw at least one person fire shots at people sitting outside bars in the street below his window.

“They were shooting at least 100 rounds just outside our building,” Hofmeister said.

Armed policemen patrol near the state opera in the center of Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting. – Two people, including one attacker, have been killed in a shooting in central Vienna, police said late November 2, 2020. Vienna police said in a Twitter post there had been “six different shooting locations” with “one deceased person” and “several injured”, as well as “one suspect shot and killed by police officers”. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP)

“All these bars have tables outside. This evening is the last evening before the lockdown,” he added. “As of midnight, all bars and restaurants will be closed in Austria for the next month and a lot of people probably wanted to use that evening to be able to go out.”

Authorities in Vienna urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transport in the city. Police said trams and buses weren’t stopping and urged social media users not to post videos of the ongoing police operation, so as not to endanger officers.

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