Prague university shooting: at least 14 dead and 25 wounded, assailant found dead

Sylvie Claire / December 21, 2023

Czech police announced that Thursday's shooting at Prague's Charles University had left 14 people dead and 25 injured, revising downwards a previous death toll of more than 15. "At the moment, I can confirm that there were 14 victims of this horrible crime and 25 injured, ten of them seriously," police chief Martin Vondrasek told the press.
 
On Thursday afternoon, a 24-year-old gunman opened fire at Prague's prestigious Charles University before being found dead on the spot by police, the authorities announced, ruling out the possibility of "international terrorism".
The act of violence, which took place in the historic center of the Czech capital, prompted a massive intervention by heavily armed police, evacuations and warnings to stay indoors. The shooting took place at the Faculty of Arts, close to major tourist attractions such as the 14th-century Charles Bridge.
 
"There is no indication that this crime is linked to international terrorism," Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan told reporters.
 
Czech police chief Martin Vondrasek told reporters that police had begun searching for the would-be assailant even before the shooting following a tip-off, after his father was found dead in the village of Hostoun, west of Prague. The shooter "left for Prague saying he wanted to commit suicide", said Mr. Vondrasek. Police had previously suggested that the gunman had killed his father.
Police first searched the Faculty of Arts building where the murderer was due to attend a lecture, but he made his way to another building nearby, and the officers didn't find him in time.
"At 13:59 GMT, we received the first information about the shooting," said Vondrasek, adding that the rapid response unit was on the scene within 12 minutes. "At 14:20 GMT, officers involved in the operation told us about the motionless body of the shooter," he said, adding that, according to unconfirmed reports, he had committed suicide.
 
Citing an investigation conducted on social media, Mr. Vondrasek indicated that the shooter had been inspired by a "similar case that occurred in Russia this fall", without going into details. "For the time being, there is no reason to believe that there is any other imminent danger," he stressed.
According to Mr. Vondrasek, no police officers were injured on Thursday, and the police had not yet begun to identify the dead at 17:00 GMT, as blasters were still at work in the building.
 
This was the most serious shooting since the Czech Republic became an independent state in 1993, causing a wave of emotion around the world.
 
Photos show students leaving the building with their arms raised. Students and university employees reported on social networks that they had barricaded themselves in classrooms and offices. They are gradually being evacuated. Several ambulances and emergency doctors were sent to the scene.
 
The Czech president said he was "shocked", in a message on X: "I am shocked by these events [...]. I would like to express my deepest regret and sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the shooting", said Petr Pavel, who ends a two-day visit to Paris on Thursday.
 
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, sent a message of compassion to Prague. "I am shocked by the senseless violence of the shooting that claimed the lives of several people today in Prague. I express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Czech people as a whole. We stand with you and weep with you", she wrote in her message on X.
 
Although mass gun violence is unusual in the Czech Republic, there have been a few cases in recent years.
In 2015, a 63-year-old murderer shot dead seven men and a woman before killing himself in a restaurant in the town of Uhersky Brod, in the southeast of the country.
In 2019, a man killed six people in the waiting room of a hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, and another woman died a few days later. The assailant shot himself to death around three hours after the attack.

 

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