Official representatives of the republic had already commemorated the victims of the terrorist attack by laying wreaths. Four victims and the assassin were killed in an attack on Monday evening. Several injured are still in critical condition. Federal President Van der Bellen spoke earlier of a “dark night that we have behind us”.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Wolfgang Sobotka laid wreaths on Vienna’s Schwedenplatz, the starting point of the terrorist attack. Also the club representatives of the parliamentary parties, the Mayor of Vienna Ludwig (SPÖ), the Second National Parliament President Doris Bures and the President of the Federal Council Andrea Eder-Gitschthaler (ÖVP) commemorated the victims on Tuesday.
Even before the wreath-laying ceremony, Van der Bellen and Kurz had addressed the population with speeches. Van der Bellen spoke of a “dark night that we have passed”, it had been “a cowardly terrorist attack on the heart of our society”. But the hatred could never be as strong “as our community”.
The Federal President emphasized that we should think of all those who have lost their lives or been injured. “Our deepest sympathy goes out to all the injured who are struggling for their lives in these hours. Our tears flow from our midst for all those who have lost their lives. He also thanked the police officers and the international community, which immediately showed its solidarity.
Van der Bellen spoke of a “cowardly terrorist attack“
The assassination was “for our free society”, it was for a life “that terrorists obviously hate deeply”. But one would not give in – “whoever accepts this, knows us badly”, said the head of state – and continued: “We will protect and defend our values, with everything that Vienna is, everything that Austria is, with everything we believe in and stand for, we say here and now: Hatred can never be as strong as our community in freedom, in democracy, in tolerance and in love. Van der Bellen concludes his speech: “Long live freedom, long live the Republic of Austria!”
Earlier, Chancellor Kurz had confirmed that the attack had been an Islamist attack. “Our sympathy now goes to the relatives of the victims,” he said. Often Austria would be seen as the “Island of the Blessed”, “we know violence and terror only from reports abroad,” Kurz said. “But this night will go down in our history as a night in which people became victims of a terrorist attack.
In the meantime it is known that the assassin was 20 years old, had North Macedonian roots and had a relevant criminal record because of a terrorist organization. Further arrests were announced on Tuesday. The population in Vienna was called upon to stay at home as far as possible.
“Our enemy is extremism”
In the face of the attack, Kurz spoke of “hatred of fundamental values, hatred of democracy and hatred of our way of life. One should not be intimidated by the terrorists. “We will defend our basic values with all our strength,” he said. We will “hunt down the perpetrators, the backers and like-minded people” and punish them “fairly”. Under no circumstances, however, should one fall into their “trap”: “Terrorism wants to divide society.
According to Kurz, the enemy is neither a population group nor members of a religious community. “Our enemy is extremism and terrorists. It is not a conflict between Christians and Muslims, but a struggle between civilization and barbarism”. This fight will be fought with all determination. Therefore, Kurz asked the Minister of the Interior, Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), to use “all available forces” to clear up the background of the crime.
Kurz thanked the security forces, which are still on duty, and the rescue services. “But our thanks also go to all the people who have distinguished themselves through courage and civil courage and have cared for the injured.
Three-day national mourning
Previously, the National Parliament had decided in its special session to hold a three-day national mourning ceremony. Up to and including Thursday, the public buildings will be decorated with mourning flags. In addition, there will be a “minute of silent remembrance” at noon on Tuesday, and a wreath-laying ceremony in downtown Vienna is planned for Wednesday. In the schools, there will be a minute’s silence on Wednesday at the beginning of classes. The government calls the assassination an “attack on freedom and democracy”.
“The Republic of Austria was, is and will always be a nation of diversity, dialogue and respect for each other, the more the events of November 2, 2020 have shaken and affected our country,” it was said. With the national mourning the flags at federal buildings are set at half-mast and the provincial governors are called upon to make this happen in their areas as well. The last official state mourning was held after the death of Federal President Thomas Klestil in 2004, which lasted four days.
- hp, with reports from orf.at. Picture: facebook.com, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz
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