A 24-year-old gunman killed more than 15 people and wounded dozens more at a Prague university on Thursday in the Czech Republic’s worst shooting in decades, before authorities said the attacker was “eliminated”.
The deadly 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.
“More than 15 people have lost their lives and at least 24 have been wounded,” police chief Martin Vondrasek told reporters following the shooting.
Emergency services preliminarily reported nine serious injuries, at least five mid-serious and up to 10 light injuries.
Vondrasek said police started a search for the man before the actual 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 the main Faculty of Arts building where the gunman was expected to show up for a lecture, but he went to the faculty’s other 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 this autumn”, without going into details.
“At the moment, there is nothing to suggest any further imminent danger,” he added.
Vondrasek said no police officer was wounded in Thursday’s action and that police had not yet started to identify the dead by 1700 GMT as pyrotechnicians were at work in the building.
Police evacuated the building, using a concert hall across the street as a temporary refuge for the evacuees.
Czech President Petr Pavel said he was “shocked” by the violence and expressed “deep regret and sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims”.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen denounced “the senseless violence of the shooting that claimed several lives today.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed his “solidarity” with the Czech people, just like many other European leaders including Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said that there was no link between the shooting and “international terrorism”.
He added that “no other gunman has been confirmed” and called on people to follow police instructions.
Police cordoned off the area and asked people living nearby to stay at home.
Prague’s emergency service said on X that “a large number of ambulance units” were deployed at the faculty.
Though mass gun violence is unusual in the Czech Republic, the nation has been rocked by some instances in recent years.
A 63-year-old man shot seven men and a woman dead in 2015 before killing himself in a restaurant in the southeastern town of Uhersky Brod.
In 2019, a man killed six people in the waiting room of a hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, with another woman dying days later. The man shot himself dead about three hours after the attack.