Many Viennese left this Monday to enjoy their last night before the second coronavirus confinement, which begins this midnight, but what was to be a time to enjoy a beer or a concert became the city's biggest terrorist nightmare in 40 years.
Around 8 p.m. local time (19:00 GMT) several alleged terrorists began shooting at people sitting on the terraces and inside bars and restaurants in the city center, a few meters from the Vienna Central Synagogue.
The authorities confirmed four dead, including one of the attackers, as well as at least 15 injured, including seven seriously. Police continue to search for other "heavily armed" terrorists.
Hundreds of shots fired
Witnesses to the events, such as Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister, said in statements to Efe that he heard "a hundred shots" in the first moments of the attack.
"At least one attacker shot at the people sitting in front of the bars and restaurants. People panicked and ran inside, but the attacker followed them and shot inside as well," Hofmeister said.
Videos circulating on social networks, recorded by neighbors from their homes, show an attacker shooting at a passerby, right in front of the main entrance to the synagogue.
The president of the Jewish community of Vienna, Oskar Deutsch, told public television ORF that the synagogue was closed at the time of the attack, as were the community offices and the adjacent kosher restaurant, thus excluding an exclusive attack on that minority.
Refugees in restaurants and bars
In another video, shot from inside a restaurant on Sweden Square (Schwedenplatz), a Vienna police officer is shot dead by a semi-automatic rifle.
Hundreds or thousands of people took refuge inside the premises and restaurants near the synagogue and also in the cathedral of Vienna before the shots of the attackers.
Jasmin, a 17-year-old Viennese woman, explained to Efe from inside a restaurant in the center of Vienna that around 8 p.m. she saw how people began to run out of the area.
"And suddenly many heavily armed policemen appeared, urging people to get inside the restaurants," said the young woman, who was still inside the restaurant a few meters away from the start of the armed attack at around midnight.
Thousands detained in the theaters
A few hundred meters away is the famous Vienna Opera House, where today the last performance before the confinement took place, with the theater closing until at least November 30.
The 1,000 people who attended the performance were still inside the theater at around midnight for security reasons, as one of the inmates told Efe.
The same happens in other concert halls in the capital, such as the Konzerthaus or the Musikverein, located a few hundred meters from the scene.
One of the safest cities in Europe
According to the Vienna police, shots were fired in six different locations in the city center, which is considered to be one of the safest and quietest in Europe so far.
The last terrorist attack in Vienna was on August 29, 1981, precisely against the central synagogue (Stadttempel), where a commando of Palestinian terrorists killed two people.
The Austrian capital, with nearly 2 million inhabitants, is one of the three centers of the United Nations and headquarters of other international organizations, like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
For several years, the city has been at the top of international quality of life lists, among others, also because of the security of its citizens and the absence of terrorist attacks.