CNN reports that gunmen with automatic weapons opened fire at six locations in central Vienna this evening. They killed at least one person (now at least two) and injured 15. One of the gunmen has been shot dead by the police, but others remain at large.
When I was in Vienna last year, I spent an enjoyable hour or two with one of our readers. He sends me this report.
You’ve heard by now the bad news from here. The shootings took place not too far from where you stayed. (You stayed near Schottentor, the shootings were not far from Schottenring, “around the bend” from where you were, so to speak. At any rate in the first district, near the Canal.)
To me the only surprise is that we lasted as long as we did without an attack like this.
As I write here on my balcony, a helicopter is circling nearby. Sirens are almost constant, almost five hours after it began. Clearly they do not have all suspects accounted for, and it feels like the search comes over here near me every once in a while. A police cruiser just went down our street below me with lights, no siren, while the helicopter was at one of its nearest points.
I saw the beginnings of the police response while picking up food at 8pm nearby. They were racing down our district’s (Landstrasse) biggest street. Even an unmarked, which is a rare site here. At that point I thought nothing of it.
In addition to the police’s elite units, there are reports that the Jagdkommando, the military elite special operations unit, is standing by. Regular soldiers have also been assigned some normal police duties such as guarding embassies, in order to free up the police officers this evening.
We’re wondering if [my daughter] will have school tomorrow.
Meanwhile we’ve just entered our second COVID lockdown, as of 48 minutes ago.
In the last week we’ve had the following:
* A church in Vienna was stormed by 20 to 30 “youths” who made a scene by kicking the pews and yelling, you guessed it, Allahu Akbar.
* An Afghan made a scene at St Stephen’s Cathedral and was arrested.
* A nun riding on public transportation in Graz was suddenly hit in the head by a young man who then jumped out and ran off. The perpetrator, an Afghan, was eventually arrested.
And now tonight. All this after a few weeks of news from France, plus the aggressive reaction of Muslim leaders like Erdogan.
According to CNN, the attacks began near Vienna’s main synagogue, Seitenstettengasse Temple. When we visited this temple, there were two or three armed and formidable looking police officers standing guard outside. (There was also good security at the main Jewish museum in Vienna, not far from the Hofburg Palace.) However, this attack apparently was directed at people walking the streets and sitting in cafes near the synagogue, not against the synagogue and worshipers.
I’ll try to keep track of this developing, and all-too-familiar, tragic story.