Austrian minister says 'Islamist terrorist' in Vienna attack, death toll rises to five

Hundreds of police fanned out across Vienna on Tuesday, searching for perpetrators of attacks that left five people dead in the city's centre, after what a government minister said was an "Islamist terrorist" incident.

In an early morning televised news conference, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer repeated calls for the public to stay off the streets.

Nehammer said police had shot to death one attacker, a man wearing an explosives belt that turned out to be fake, whom authorities have identified as an Islamic State sympathiser.

Police confirmed on Tuesday that three civilians - two men and a woman - were killed in the attacks, with at least 15 others wounded, including a police officer. Broadcaster ORF later said a fourth civilian, a woman, had died.

Seven of the injured were in a life-threatening condition, the APA news agency said.

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Armed police arrive at the first district near the state opera in central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on Monday evening, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Police officers check a car at the scene after gunshots were heard, in Vienna, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Austrian police say several people have been injured and officers are out in force following gunfire in the capital Vienna. Initial reports that a synagogue was the target of an attack couldn't immediately be confirmed. Austrian news agency APA quoted the country's Interior Ministry saying one attacker has been killed and another could be on the run.(Photo/Ronald Zak)
Police officers walk between emergency vehicles at the scene after gunshots were heard, in Vienna, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Austrian police say several people have been injured and officers are out in force following gunfire in the capital Vienna. Initial reports that a synagogue was the target of an attack couldn't immediately be confirmed. Austrian news agency APA quoted the country's Interior Ministry saying one attacker has been killed and another could be on the run.(Photo/Ronald Zak)
Police officers stay in position at the scene after gunshots were heard, in Vienna, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Austrian police say several people have been injured and officers are out in force following gunfire in the capital Vienna. Initial reports that a synagogue was the target of an attack couldn't immediately be confirmed. Austrian news agency APA quoted the country's Interior Ministry saying one attacker has been killed and another could be on the run.(Photo/Ronald Zak)
A police officers walk near ambulances at the scene after gunshots were heard, in Vienna, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Austrian police say several people have been injured and officers are out in force following gunfire in the capital Vienna. Initial reports that a synagogue was the target of an attack couldn't immediately be confirmed. Austrian news agency APA quoted the country's Interior Ministry saying one attacker has been killed and another could be on the run.(Photo/Ronald Zak)
En este fotograma se ven policías en el lugar donde se reportaron disparos en Viena, Austria, el lunes 2 de noviembre de 2020. (AP Foto)
Police officers check a person following a gunfire in the neighborhood of a synagogue in Vienna, Germany, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo/Ronald Zak)
Armed policemen patrol in the center of Vienna, Austria, on November 2, 2020, following a shooting. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on the evening of November 2, 2020, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
A policeman points his gun in the air as others stand in front of a shop in the center of Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting. - Two people, including one attacker, have been killed in a shooting in central Vienna, police said late November 2, 2020. Vienna police said in a Twitter post there had been "six different shooting locations" with "one deceased person" and "several injured", as well as "one suspect shot and killed by police officers". (Photo by ROLAND SCHLAGER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by ROLAND SCHLAGER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
Armed policemen stand guard in a shopping street in the center of Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on the evening of November 2, 2020, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 02: Heavily armed police stand near Schwedenplatz square in the city center following reports of shots fired nearby on November 02, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Police blocked off nearby streets and urged people to stay away in what seems to be an ongoing event possibly involving several attackers. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)
Armed police patrol at Mariahilferstrasse in central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Austrian Interior Minster Nehammer said late on November 2 that a shooting in central Vienna near a major synagogue appeared to be a terrorist attack and was ongoing. (Photo by ROLAND SCHLAGER / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by ROLAND SCHLAGER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
Armed policemen stand witha a dog near the State Opera in the center of Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on the evening of November 2, 2020, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Police cars and policemen stand in the central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on the evening of November 2, 2020, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Police patrol near Stephansplatz in central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Austrian Interior Minster Nehammer said late on November 2 that a shooting in central Vienna near a major synagogue appeared to be a terrorist attack and was ongoing. (Photo by Ales HALADA / AFP) (Photo by ALES HALADA/AFP via Getty Images)
Women run away from the first district near the state opera, central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Austrian Interior Minster Nehammer said late on November 2 that a shooting in central Vienna near a major synagogue appeared to be a terrorist attack and was ongoing. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Police cars and armed police officers patrol in central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on the evening of November 2, 2020, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by GEORG HOCHMUTH/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
An armed policeman stands guard near the state opera in central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on Monday evening, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by Joe Klamar / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Armed police patrol at the area around the state opera in central Vienna on November 2, 2020, following a shooting near a synagogue. - Multiple gunshots were fired in central Vienna on Monday evening, according to police, with the location of the incident close to a major synagogue. Police urged residents to keep away from all public places or public transport. One attacker was "dead" and another "on the run", with one police officer being seriously injured, Austria's interior ministry said according to news agency APA. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
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A police spokesman said that reinforcements had been called in from neighbouring states and that at least 1,000 officers were involved in the search.

"We experienced an attack yesterday evening by at least one Islamist terrorist, a situation that we have not had to live through in Austria for decades," Nehammer said.

"Austria for more than 75 years has been a strong democracy, a mature democracy, a country whose identity is marked by values and basic rights, with freedom of expression, rule of law, but also tolerance in human coexistence," he said. "Yesterday's attack is an attack on just these values."

The editor of Vienna's Falter newspaper said in Twitter messages that the assailant who was killed was known to domestic intelligence agencies.

The 20-year-old had Albanian roots but was born and raised in Vienna, the editor said. He was one of 20 Austrian Islamists who had wanted to travel to Syria, the editor added.

The assailant killed by police, and other potential gunmen, attacked six locations in central Vienna on Monday evening, starting outside the main synagogue. Witnesses described the men firing into crowds in bars with automatic rifles, as many people took advantage of the last evening before a nationwide curfew was introduced because of COVID-19.

Nehammer said video material had been seized from the home of the known assailant during a search and police were investigating his potential connections.

CITY CENTRE SEALED OFF

APA reported that multiple homes had been searched and arrests made, citing the Interior Ministry. An Interior Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the APA report.

Vienna's police chief declined to provide further details on the attacker's identity, citing potential endangerment of the investigation.

Police sealed off much of the historic centre of the city overnight, urging the public to shelter in place. Many sought refuge in bars and hotels, while public transport throughout the old town was shut down and police scoured the city.

Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna's Jewish community, which has offices adjoining the synagogue on a narrow cobbled street dotted with bars, said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the temple or offices were targeted but that they were closed at the time.

Videos circulated on social media of a gunman running down a cobblestone street shooting and shouting. One showed a man gunning down a person outside what appeared to be a bar on the street housing the synagogue.

Austria's capital had been spared the kind of deadly militant attacks that have struck Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels, among others, in recent years. Austria is part of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS formed in 2014.

Condolences poured in from around the world, with top officials from the European Union, France, Norway, Greece and the United States expressing their shock at the attacks.

US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that "our prayers are with the people of Vienna after yet another vile act of terrorism in Europe."

"These evil attacks against innocent people must stop. The U.S. stands with Austria, France, and all of Europe in the fight against terrorists, including radical Islamic terrorists."

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned what he called a "horrific terrorist attack," adding, "We must all stand united against hate and violence."

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