Gunman kills 14, wounds 25 at Prague university
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AFP)— A 24-year-old student killed 14 people and wounded 25 at a Prague university on Thursday in the Czech Republic’s worst shooting in decades, before authorities said the attacker was “eliminated”.
The violence in the city’s historic centre sparked evacuations, a massive response by heavily armed police and warnings for people to stay indoors.
The shooting erupted at the Charles University’s Faculty of Arts, which sits near major tourist sites like the 14th-century Charles Bridge.
“At this moment I can confirm 14 victims of the horrible crime and 25 wounded, of which 10 seriously,” police chief Martin Vondrasek told reporters after the shooting.
All the victims were killed inside the building, he said. Media said at least some were the gunman’s fellow students.
The Dutch foreign ministry said one of the injured was a Dutch national.
Vondrasek added the gunman, previously unknown to the police, had a “huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition” and that quick police action prevented far more serious carnage.
The government declared a day of national mourning on December 23, with flags on official buildings to be flown at half-mast and people asked to observe a minute’s silence at noon.
Lists of missing students were shared on social media while those safe from the shooting posted messages to inform their friends and relatives.
Vondrasek said police started a search for the man before the mass shooting as his father had been found dead in the village of Hostoun west of Prague.
The gunman “left for Prague saying he wanted to kill himself”, Vondrasek said. Police suggested earlier the gunman had killed his father.
Police searched a Faculty of Arts building where the gunman was expected to show up for a lecture, but he went to the faculty’s main building nearby and they did not find him.
“At 1359 GMT, we received the first information about shooting,” Vondrasek told reporters, adding the rapid response unit was on the scene within 12 minutes.
“At 1420 GMT, the officers in action told us about the gunman’s motionless body,” Vondrasek said, adding unconfirmed information showed he had killed himself.
Citing a probe into social media, Vondrasek said the gunman was inspired by a “similar case that happened in Russia”, without going into details.
Vondrasek said police believed the same gunman had also killed a young man and his two-month-old daughter in a pram during a walk in a forest on the eastern outskirts of Prague on December 15.
The police investigation into the murder that had shocked Prague was deadlocked until evidence found in Hostoun linked the gunman with the crime.
Vondrasek said no police officer was wounded in Thursday’s action.