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4 people ‘killed in cold blood’ in Vienna during night of terror

Police guard stand near Schwedenplatz square following a shooting in the center of Vienna on November 3, 2020 one day after at least three people were killed in multiple shootings. - A huge manhunt was under way on November 3 after gunmen opened fire at multiple locations across central Vienna, killing at least three people and wounding several more. (Photo by HANS PUNZ / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by HANS PUNZ/APA/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has told CNN his country is not only looking to combat terrorists, but also the ideology behind them, after the terror attack in Vienna Monday night.

At least four people were “killed in cold blood” and a further 22 were injured, including a police officer who is now in a stable condition after surgery, in an attack that took place in six locations across the Austrian capital.

In a sit-down interview with CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Vienna, Kurz said there was one gunman and “probably he was alone.” Authorities had previously feared that the perpetrator didn’t act alone and that another gunman might be at large.

Kurz said the situation was more or less under control, but Austrian authorities are trying to find out if there are any others who supported the attacker. “During the last 24 hours, we arrested 14 people,” Kurz said, “now we will find out in the next days if he is part of a broader network or not.”

Kurz confirmed the gunman was born in Austria and had a family background from Northern Macedonia. “What we know is that he is a supporter of the Islamic State.”

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ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday, calling the shooter “Abu Dujana Al-Albany” and claiming that he used two guns, including one machine gun, and a knife, in the assault, according to a statement posted on the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

Authorities had earlier identified the attacker as Fejzulai Kujtim, a 20-year-old Austrian man from the town of St. Poelten, 33 miles west of Vienna.

Kujtim was sentenced to 22 months in prison on April 25, 2019 for attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told state news agency APA. On December 5, he was released early on parole, it reports.

Police in Switzerland arrested two Swiss citizens in connection with the attack on Tuesday night, but their links to Kujtim were not confirmed.

Armed forces have been deployed in Vienna to help secure the situation, with authorities indicating earlier in the evening that at least one gunman remains on the loose.

Residents of Vienna have been asked to stay at home or in a safe place and follow the news. Authorities have abandoned compulsory school attendance and asked citizens to avoid the city center for fears of another attacker still at large.

Earlier, Vienna police said that SWAT teams entered the gunman’s apartment using explosives and a search of its surroundings was underway. Police have also received more than 20,000 videos from members of the public following the attack.

The initial attack, which began around 8 p.m., was centered on the busy shopping and dining district near Vienna’s main synagogue, Seitenstettengasse Temple, which was closed.

The five other locations were identified as Salzgries, Fleischmarkt, Bauernmarkt, Graben and, Morzinplatz near the Temple, according to an Austrian law enforcement source speaking to journalists on Tuesday.

Vienna mayor Michael Ludwig said shots appeared to be fired at random,as people dined and drank outside due to the warm weather and virus concerns.

Julia Hiermann, who lives in Vienna, was having drinks with a friend when the shooting began.

Restaurant staff told everyone to hide in the basement, she told CNN over the phone. There she and others were told that gunmen were shooting outside. Hiermann said she did not see or hear the attackers.

The police later came inside the restaurant and told diners that “we have to stay inside and wait here,” she said. “This seems unimaginable. When they said shots fired I didn’t think this was serious,” she said.

Footage shared on social media of the shooting shows a chaotic situation, with people fleeing from the scene in all directions on foot.

Inside the Vienna Burgtheater, artistic director Martin Kusej took to the stage to announce there had been an incident nearby, while advising opera attendees to stay inside the theater.

Following reports of gunshots, armed police quickly swarmed the area, with helicopters and ambulances deployed. Police could be seen patrolling the city center, ordering people to stay inside bars and restaurants. Other areas of the city were also cordoned off while police conducted checks on cars.

Like many European countries, Austria experienced a surge in young radicalized Muslims trying to join ISIS in Syria between 2014 and 2017, before the terrorists’ self-declared caliphate collapsed.

Monitoring returned fighters or others suspected of being radicalized is a huge undertaking. Intelligence professionals say that round-the-clock surveillance can consume the time of 20 officers.

In the aftermath of the attack, Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna’s Jewish community, said in a tweet that it was unclear whether the synagogue was a target, but that it was closed at the time of the shooting.

All synagogues, Jewish schools, the institutions of the IKG (Jewish Community of Vienna), and kosher restaurants and supermarkets in Vienna were closed on Tuesday as a precaution, Deutsch said.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Kurz reaffirmed that Austrian society was united in its fight against terrorism and the ideology behind it, adding that “we all know in our country this is not a fight between Christians or Muslims or Austrians and people from other countries.”

Across Europe, leaders have strongly condemned the shooting, which follows two terror attacks in France in recent weeks.

“After France, it is a friendly country that is under attack,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter.

“Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values,” the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said on Twitter.

Other leaders have shared statements expressing their shock and sorrow, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

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