Two Austrian men of Turkish descent saved the lives of a police officer and two women during the Monday night attack in Vienna.

Recep Tayyip Gultekin and Mikail Ozen were received and honoured at Turkey's Embassy in Vienna, Austria on November 3, 2020.
Recep Tayyip Gultekin and Mikail Ozen were received and honoured at Turkey's Embassy in Vienna, Austria on November 3, 2020. (TRT Deutsch)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has praised two Austrian-Turkish men, Recep Tayyip Gultekin and Mikail Ozen, for their heroic actions during Vienna's terror attack.

The two heroes were also received and honoured by Turkey's Embassy in Vienna on Tuesday.

Gultekin and Ozen were in Vienna’s city centre when the attack began. 

Both headed in the direction of the incident and saw the terrorist shooting at civilians.

They risked their lives to rescue a police officer and two women.

"He was lying on the ground and we ran over in zig-zag fashion," Ozen, a personal trainer and mixed martial arts fighter, told journalists, pointing to the place he and his friend Gultekin said the police officer had been.

He said two other police officers, who threw themselves onto the injured officer to protect him, urged them to stay back for their own safety.

But he said they walked over and helped carry the injured officer to an ambulance.

"They were shocked, and we were shocked ... The paramedics were standing over there ... We looked at each other and we just walked over. We did what was necessary," he said.

"I, as a Muslim of Turkish descent, want to say: I live in Austria, I was born in Austria, I went to school in Austria and learned my profession here in Austria," Ozen said.

"If the same thing were to happen again today, I would do the exact same thing without a second thought. Because we live in Austria, we stand with Austria."

'Abuse of Islam'

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosoglu also praised Gultekin and Ozen's actions.

 "Our two brothers did what a human, a Muslim, and a Turk should do."

Stressing Turkey’s condemnation of Monday’s terror attack, Cavusoglu also underlined the need to keep fighting ideologies which abuse Islam.

"Especially we need to continue our fight to destroy the ideologies of those who abuse Islam, our religion of peace," Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Sierra Leonean counterpart in the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday.

He went on to say that no terrorist attack can be justified, and that Turkey stands ready for close and sincere cooperation against all approaches that cause terrorism.

READ MORE: Two Turkish heroes save police and two women in Vienna attack

Four civilians killed

Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer on Tuesday said video material offered no evidence of another attacker though it isn’t the final word.

A 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual citizen, who was shot and killed by police minutes after the attack started on Monday evening, has been identified as the assailant in what authorities say was a militant extremist attack. 

Four people died in the shooting.

Nehammer said that the number of wounded has risen to 22.

And he said that 14 people associated with the assailant have been detained for questioning in searches on 18 properties in and near Vienna.

Unverified video showed the suspect, dressed in white coveralls, firing off bursts apparently at random as he ran down the Austrian capital's cobblestone streets.

Police have arrested several other people and searched 15 houses and apartments, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told the Austrian news agency APA.

READ MORE: Four civilians, one attacker dead in Vienna attack: police

Daesh supporter

The attacker, identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 because he had tried to travel to Syria to join Daesh.

He was granted early release in December under juvenile law.

Nehammer said Fejzulai had posted a photo on his Instagram account before the attack that showed him with two of the weapons he apparently used.

"(The suspect) was equipped with a fake explosive vest and an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete to carry out this repugnant attack on innocent citizens,” 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 the city on Tuesday morning.

Killed in 9 minutes

The shooting began shortly after 1900 GMT on 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.

Vienna police chief Gerhard Puerstl said the attacker was killed at 1909 GMT. But authorities continued to look for potential further assailants.

“We will unearth and chase down the perpetrators, those behind them and like-minded people and give them the punishment they deserve,” Kurz said.

“We will pursue all those who have anything to do with this outrage by all available means.”

His government on Tuesday ordered three days of official mourning, with flags on public buildings to be flown at half-staff until Thursday.

Austria held a minute of silence at midday Tuesday, accompanied by the tolling of bells in the capital. Kurz, President Alexander Van der Bellen and other leading politicians laid wreaths and candles where the attack took place.

Alois Schroll, an Austrian lawmaker and the mayor of the town of Ybbs, said he had just arrived at a nearby restaurant when the attack started.

He said he “saw many, many people running with their hands up high, they were in a panic and screaming.”

Police "sealed off the entire restaurant," Schroll, 52, said. "People started getting phone calls ... so finally we understood what was going on.”

“People inside the restaurant were in shock, there were several women who were crying. And it wasn’t until shortly before 0000 GMT that police finally let us out of the restaurant."

Schroll said he wasn't allowed back to his apartment because the area was still blocked off — "instead, we had to go across a bridge, also with our hands raised up.

We couldn’t find a hotel, so we were just wandering around for hours.”

'End up in wrong circles'

Fejzulai's lawyer in the 2019 case, Nikolaus Rast, told public broadcaster ORF that his client had seemed “completely harmless” at the time.

Fejzulai's family “wasn't strictly religious at all; the family wasn't radical — it was a completely normal family,” Rast said.

“I still remember that the family couldn't believe what had happened with their son.”

The attack drew swift condemnation and assurances of support from leaders around Europe, including from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has experienced three terror attacks in recent weeks, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Egypt’s Al Azhar University, one of the prominent religious institution around the world, condemned the terrorist attacks. 

It called on international institutions “to stand united” against terrorism and reject violence and hatred.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies