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Shooting Attack In Vienna, Austria, Leaves Several People Dead

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are learning a lot more this morning about a shooting yesterday in Austria's capital, Vienna. The country's leader is calling this a, quote, "repulsive terror attack." Authorities are saying an Islamic State sympathizer led the attack last night, which we know at this point has killed four victims. Police are still searching for accomplices. Journalist Kerry Skyring is on the line from Vienna on Skype with us this morning. And, Kerry, can you just walk us through what happened last night in Vienna?

KERRY SKYRING, BYLINE: The first reports reached police a little after 8 o'clock, and it was of a man shooting at people in the central district of Vienna. It was quite a warm night, as some have said. It was the last few hours before a curfew came into effect and people would no longer be able to go to cafes and bars, so quite a few people were out. And the shooting went on for some time before the police managed to, in turn, shoot the main attacker. There may have been others.

But by then, as we know now, around four people had died - two men, two women - plus the attacker, a policeman seriously injured. Seventeen people in hospital with seven of those in a critical condition. So a very serious attack right in the heart of Vienna.

GREENE: You mentioned a curfew. I assume this was some of the COVID-19 restrictions in place?

SKYRING: That's correct. New restrictions came into place at midnight last night.

GREENE: Well, I guess we're learning more this morning from Austria's chancellor, other senior officials, over the past few hours, including some information on the main suspect here. What exactly do we know?

SKYRING: Yes. Just in the last hour or so, quite a bit of information has come through on the main suspect, the man who died last night - that he was a 20-year-old, that he was born in Vienna but held dual citizenship, apparently also North Macedonian citizenship, that he had links to IS, to the Islamic State group, and had been charged with a terror offense last year when he was at the age of 19, was released early because of his age. So police obviously knew him.

And I think that has also led to what we are seeing going on at the moment - many house searches are apparently going on, both inside and outside of Vienna - obviously, accomplices or people that he has been in touch with. There have been some reports that he was posting photos of himself on his Instagram account of himself carrying weapons shortly before the attack.

GREENE: You know, we've seen attacks in places like France, Belgium, the U.K. - Austria, it seems, has been mostly spared in recent years. I mean, was the country prepared for something like this?

SKYRING: I don't think people were prepared for it. Perhaps the police were because they have a very, it seems, effective emergency response team in Vienna. And they said, this is what we have prepared for. But, certainly, I think the country thought they had missed out on the sort of tragedies that had happened in Paris and in Belgium and in London and in Berlin as well, in parts of Germany, so people really weren't prepared for it. I think dealing with the COVID pandemic and unemployment and all the issues associated with that - having this happen on top of it has really shocked a lot of people.

GREENE: I'm sure. Kerry Skyring is a journalist based in Austria's capital, Vienna. Thanks a lot for your reporting this morning.

SKYRING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.