Vienna Islamist Terror Attack: Live Updates

More+More+ ♦ Published: November 2, 2020; 20:51 ♦ Updated: November 6; 12:10 ♦ (Vindobona)

The attack by an Islamist terrorist began on Monday evening in downtown Vienna directly in front of a synagogue. Five people died, including the suspect. The dead suspect, a 20-year-old man with Albanian roots and parents from North Macedonia, was a sympathizer of the terrorist militia Islamic State and possessed both, the Austrian and the Macedonian citizenship. Twenty-two people were injured, some in critical condition. Three days of state mourning was decided. The investigations are running at full speed. However, it is now assumed that there was only one suspect.

Islamist terrorist attack close to Vienna's main synagogue, the City Temple, also known as Seitenstettengassen-Temple. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Yair Haklai, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

What has happened so far

In the evening of November 2, 2020, around 8 p.m. local time, a terrorist attack took place in downtown Vienna.

At least five people were killed and 22 others, 3 of them seriously injured.

Shortly after 8 p.m. local time, the first shots were reported in Seitenstettengasse in downtown Vienna, where the main synagogue of the Jewish community and the so-called Bermuda Triangle, a busy local district, are located.

The city temple is the main synagogue of Vienna, it is also known as Seitenstettengasse Temple. For security reasons, the temple, like other Jewish institutions in Austria, is constantly protected by the police.

The Vienna State Police Department initially reported several suspects with rifles, and a total of six crime scenes in the city center.

In addition to Seitenstettengasse, other crime scenes included Graben, Fleischmarkt, Bauernmarkt, Salzgries and Morzinplatz.

The suspect was shot dead by the police. Later it turned out that the name of the suspect was Kujtim F.

Later it turned out that, according to the Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer, he had been a sympathizer of the terrorist organization "Islamic State", which is why the investigators classified the attack as Islamistically motivated.

Video recordings of several surveillance cameras and eyewitnesses show a suspect dressed up to the head in a white robe. He wore a black headgear, several equipment bags, as well as a rifle and at least one handgun. He also had a dummy explosives belt, as it turned out only later during the autopsy.

Whether there were several assassins or whether the attack was the work of one individual is still unclear or is still kept secret for security reasons. Security circles spoke of at least two perpetrators with AK-47 assault rifles.

Friday 11.50 a.m.: Raids on Islamists in Germany

The Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA Bundeskriminalamt) searched the homes and offices of several suspected Islamists in Germany.

  • The German federal prosecutor's office is conducting investigations.
  • Searches were carried out at the contact persons of the assassin in the Islamist scene in Germany, i.e. in Osnabrück, Pinneberg and Kassel.
    The assassin is said to have met with two of them in Vienna in July 2020, and there was contact with a third person via the Internet. There was no direct contact with the fourth person, only indirect contact via the Internet.
  • Nobody was arrested, it was only a matter of securing possible evidence.
  • The German Federal Prosecutor's Office has so far assumed that the contact persons were not involved in the preparation of the attack.

Wednesday 11.22 a.m.: Slovakia warned Austria

According to an ORF report, the assassin had tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia in the summer.

  • The purchase apparently failed due to a missing firearms license and/or ammunition purchase license.
  • The Slovak police confirmed the purchase attempt on Facebook, as well as that the Austrian police had been informed.
  • According to further research by the ORF, a spokesman for the Austrian Ministry of the Interior confirmed to the SZ that the authorities had been informed.
  • The Austrian Ministry of the Interior has not yet issued a statement.

Tuesday 9.21 p.m.: IS Claims Responsibility for Terror Attack in Vienna

According to APA - Austrian Press Agency, the IS announced on its platform, that "a soldier of the caliphate" carried out the attack with firearms and a knife and killed or injured about 30 people in the Austrian capital, including police officers". Another IS statement on a messaging service also revealed the extremist organization's confession.

  • However, there were no indications to substantiate the declaration.
  • The Ministry of the Interior is currently examining the letter of confession.
  • It cannot yet be said whether it is genuine or not.
  • Conclusion is, that it is still too early for a final assessment.

Middle East expert and political scientist Thomas Schmidinger today told APA, that the Islamic State may be using the attack as a free rider. "There is some evidence that this was not decided at the IS headquarters, but that the reason that Vienna was the target of the attack is because the assassin lived in Vienna and is a jihadist socialized in Vienna." But it could also have been a hybrid, namely that the assassin was in contact with the IS through the social networks.

Tuesday 6.30 p.m.: Funeral service in St. Stephen's Cathedral

In St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna's first district, very close to the terrorist attack, the victims were commemorated in the evening.

Tuesday 3.43 p.m.: Press Conference with Interior Minister: "No Indication of Second Assassin"

The Minister of the Interior Nehammer informed the public, that

  • there had been 18 raids and 14 arrests in the vicinity of the shot assassin,
  • those arrested were from the circle of friends and acquaintances of the 20-year-old assassin,
  • there had also been house searches in the Austrian cities Vienna, Linz and St. Pölten,
  • two other men were arrested in Switzerland on Tuesday, as they too were possibly connected to the assassin,
  • the perpetrator's apartment had been opened with explosives,
  • the investigations in the perpetrator's surroundings included the seizure of ammunition.

Tuesday 1.38 p.m.: United Arab Emirates Strongly Condemns Terror Attack in Vienna

The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Vienna is deeply moved by the Islamic motivated attack in Vienna and condemns the terrorist attack in a statement.

Tuesday 1.29 p.m.: Three Days of State Mourning Decided - Laying of a Wreath in Remembrance

In its special session following the terrorist attack in Vienna, the government decided on a three-day national mourning. With the state mourning, flags on federal buildings will be set at half-mast and the provincial governors will be called upon to arrange for this in their areas as well.

"The Republic of Austria was, is and will always be a nation of diversity, dialogue and respect for one another, the more the events of November 2, 2020 have shaken and affected our country," the government resolution states.

  • Up to and including Thursday, the public buildings will be decorated with funeral flags.
  • With a minute of silent remembrance, the victims of the attack in Vienna were remembered today.
  • Shortly before 1:00 p.m., a wreath was laid in the city center of Vienna by the Federal President, the government, the presidents of the National Council as well as club chairmen of the parliamentary parties and the mayor.
  • The schools are also to observe a minute's silence at the beginning of tomorrow's lessons.

Tuesday 10:00 a.m.: Austrian government imposes three-day national mourning

In a special session following the terrorist attack in Vienna, the government decided on a three-day national mourning:

  • A wreath-laying ceremony will be held today in downtown Vienna by the Federal President, the government, the presidents of the National Council and the club chairmen of the parliamentary parties and the mayor.
  • Up to and including Thursday, the public buildings will be decorated with mourning flags, i.e. the flags on federal buildings will be set at half-mast.
  • There will also be a minute's silence on Tuesday at noon.
  • The schools are to commemorate the victims tomorrow at the start of classes.

The government will work with all available forces to further clarify the situation, the Council of Ministers said.

The government calls the assassination attempt an "attack on freedom and democracy".

The Republic of Austria will defend freedom, democracy and the values of our coexistence resolutely and with all necessary means. In addition, Austria will fight together with its international partners and friends against terrorism and extremism.

Tuesday 9.30 a.m.: Reactions of the Israelite and Muslim communities

The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation reports that both the IKG - Vienna Israelite Community (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien), and the IGGÖ -  Islamic Religious Community in Austria (Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich) have issued statements regarding the further procedure.

  • Jewish institutions remain closed
    • The Jewish Community Vienna has closed all synagogues in Austria.
    • All facilities in Vienna, such as kosher restaurants, supermarkets and schools, have also been closed.
    • The municipal rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister was a witness, he told the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation that he had seen at least one suspect.
  • Muslim representatives offer cooperation
    • The Islamic Religious Community in Austria offered unrestricted cooperation with the security authorities.
    • One would find out whether the suspect had been involved in the community or had attracted attention, an Islamic Religious Community in Austria spokeswoman said.

Tuesday 8.40 a.m.: This is the assassin

In the morning of Tuesday it became known that the main suspect had apparently announced the crime on the web. According to information from the daily newspaper "Krone", the suspect is an approximately 30-year-old refugee. The assassin, who is believed to have been armed with an illegal AK-47 assault rifle, was shot and killed by the special unit WEGA.

The suspect is said to

  • have already spent some time in Austria,
  • have taken an oath of allegiance to the new head of the terrorist militia IS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi,
  • have been armed with illegal AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles,
  • have posted a selfie with a machete, a pistol and an assault rifle shortly before the attack.

About the initial crime scene - The City Temple

The city temple is the main synagogue of Vienna. For security reasons, the City Temple, like other Jewish institutions in Austria, is constantly protected by the police.

It is located in Vienna's 1st district Innere Stadt at Seitenstettengasse 4. Therefore the main synagogue is also called Seitenstettentempel.

Before 1938 it was common practice in Vienna to name the facilities after the streets or alleys because of the large number of synagogues and prayer rooms.

The temple has a sad history, as terrorist attacks took place here in 1979 and 1981.

On April 22, 1979, half a kilogram of plastic explosives exploded in the courtyard of the synagogue. Nobody was injured, but all the glass windows shattered and there was great material damage. The assassins were able to enter the synagogue completely unhindered; as a result, the Palestinian extremist group Eagles of the Revolution (As-Saika) assumed authorship of the bomb.

On August 29, 1981, two heavily armed terrorists of the Palestinian extremist group Fatah Revolutionary Council carried out an attack on the city temple, killing two people and seriously injuring 21 of them. The assassins, one of whom had already carried out the attack on Heinz Nittel, entered the synagogue on the Sabbath morning during the service, threw hand grenades and fired into the crowd.

Police officers assigned for security purposes and two private guards were seriously injured in the hail of bullets.

One of the assassins was shot by a private detective who happened to be present and was arrested nearby in the course of the subsequent large-scale manhunt.

The second terrorist was also caught after a chase, during which he killed two passers-by and threw hand grenades at a radio patrol car.