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Jihadist shot dead after killing 4 in Vienna

Jihadist shot dead after killing 4 in Vienna
Police officers stay in position during an operation, in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday (AP)
VIENNA, NOV 3 (AP) | Publish Date: 11/3/2020 12:37:57 PM IST

A man who had previously tried to join the Islamic State group rampaged in Vienna armed with an automatic rifle and a fake explosive vest, fatally shooting four people before he was killed by police, Austrian authorities said Tuesday.

Witnesses described dozens of screaming people fleeing the sounds of gunshots Monday night in a nightlife district crowded with revelers enjoying the last hours before a coronavirus lockdown.

Others barricaded themselves inside restaurants for hours until they were sure the danger had passed. Video that appeared to be from the scene showed a gunman, dressed in white coveralls, firing off bursts seemingly at random as he ran down the Austrian capital’s dark cobblestone streets.

While the attack lasted just minutes, authorities said only on Tuesday afternoon that there was no indication of a second attacker — adding to tension in the capital as residents were urged to stay home.

Two men and two women died from their injuries in the attack — including one German woman, according to Germany’s foreign minister. Authorities said a police officer who tried to get in the way of the attacker was shot and wounded, along with 21 other people.

The suspect was identified as a 20-year-old Austrian-North Macedonian dual citizen with a previous terror conviction for attempting to join the Islamic State group in Syria. Police searched 18 properties as well as the suspect’s apartment, detaining 14 people associated with the assailant who are being questioned, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.

“Yesterday’s attack was clearly an Islamist terror attack,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. “It was an attack out of hatred — hatred for our fundamental values, hatred for our way of life, hatred for our democracy in which all people have equal rights and dignity.”

The attacker, identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, was armed with a fake explosive vest, an automatic rifle, a handgun and a machete, according to Nehammer. Before the attack he posted a photograph on a social media account showing him posing with the rifle and machete, Nehammer said.

Fejzulai was sentenced to 22 months in prison in April 2019 but was granted early release in December.

“The fact is that the terrorist managed to deceive the judicial system’s deradicalization program” to secure his release, Nehammer said, adding that the system should be reevaluated.

He also said that an attempt to strip Fejzulai of his Austrian citizenship had failed for lack of enough evidence.

The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed credit for the Vienna attack, calling the perpetrator a “soldier of the Caliphate.” The claim of responsibility was published through the militant group’s media arm, Aamaq. It didn’t elaborate on the attacker’s ties to IS and had similar wording to past, opportunistic claims by the group.

In North Macedonia, police said a list of suspects sent by Austria included two others with dual Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship.

In Switzerland, police in the city of Winterthur said an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old were arrested in consultation with Austrian authorities. Investigators are now trying to determine the nature of the two men’s contact with the Vienna suspect.

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