Five people, including an attacker, killed after multiple gunmen open fire across central Vienna in what Chancellor Sebastian Kurz calls a "repulsive terrorist attack".

Police officers aim their weapons on the corner of a street after exchanges of gunfire in Vienna, Austria on November 2, 2020.
Police officers aim their weapons on the corner of a street after exchanges of gunfire in Vienna, Austria on November 2, 2020. (Reuters)

Five people have died, including an assailant, and 17 others were wounded in a shooting in the heart of Vienna hours before a coronavirus lockdown started, Austrian authorities have said.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Tuesday two men and two women have died from their injuries in the attack Monday evening. 

A suspected attacker, who was carrying an assault rifle and a fake suicide vest, was also shot and killed by police.

Vienna's hospital service said seven people were in life-threatening condition after the attack, the Austrian news agency APA reported. In total, 17 people were being treated in hospitals, with gunshot wounds but also cuts.

The attacker was a Daesh terror group sympathiser, Nehammer said in a press conference.

Earlier on Monday night, gunmen opened fire on people enjoying the last night out at Vienna’s cafes and restaurants before a coronavirus lockdown in what authorities said was a terrorist attack that left 15 others wounded.

"We are victims of a despicable terror attack in the federal capital that is still ongoing," Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said hours after the gunfire erupted.

"One of the perpetrators was neutralised, but several perpetrators appear to still be on the loose," he said. "They seem to also, as far as we know, be very well equipped, with automatic weapons. So they were very well prepared."

A civilian was killed during the attack while a woman wounded in an attack died of her injuries, bringing the civilian death toll to two, Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig told broadcaster ORF.

Police said that several shots were fired shortly after 8 pm (1900GMT) on a lively street in the city centre and that there were six shooting locations. 

Unverified footage on social media showed gunmen walking through the streets, apparently shooting at people at random, wounding several.

Motive being probed

Authorities gave no indication of the identity of the assailants or reason for the attack. But Kurz said the possibility it was an anti-Semitic attack cannot be ruled out, given that the shooting began outside Vienna's main synagogue. It was closed at the time.

Nehammer said the army had been asked to guard key locations in the city as hundreds of heavily armed police hunted for the gunmen. 

He urged people in Vienna to stay indoors and avoid the city center and encouraged parents not to send their children to school on Tuesday.

Kurz praised police for killing one of the attackers and vowed: "We will not never allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism and will fight these attacks with all means."

Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig said 15 people were hospitalised, seven with serious injuries.

Police said the operation in the centre of Vienna city was ongoing and urged people to avoid all open spaces and public transport.

"Please don't stare any rumours, accusations, speculations or unconfirmed numbers of victims - that does not help at all," it said.

'Don't spread rumours'

Initial reports that a synagogue was the target of an attack in Vienna couldn't immediately be confirmed.

Police added that the exact circumstances of the incident were still being determined.

Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the Vienna synagogue and adjoining offices had been the target of an attack, and said they were closed at the time.

"It is not clear whether Vienna synagogue or adjoining offices were targets… please don't spread misinformation or rumours, "Oskar Deutsch said.

People sitting outside bars fired at

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.

"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."

"It sounded like firecrackers, then we realised it was shots," said one eyewitness quoted by public broadcaster ORF.

A shooter had "shot wildly with an automatic weapon" before the police arrived and opened fire, the witness added.

Countries condemn Vienna attacks

Several countries condemned the attacks and expressed solidarity with Austria.

Turkey said it "stands with Austrian people" and expressed sorrow at the loss of lives in the multiple shootouts. 

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that "we French share the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people".

EU Council chief Charles Michel tweeted that the bloc "strongly condemns this cowardly act". 

Germany's Foreign Ministry tweeted that the reports from Austria were "horrifying and disturbing".

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also "strongly condemned" the shootings. 

"There is no room for hatred and violence in our common European home," he said on Twitter.

READ MORE: Turkey 'stands with' Austria after shooting in Vienna

Source: TRTWorld and agencies