Vienna police reported via Twitter “a large police operation going on in the 1st district of Vienna,” and advised the public to avoid entering the city until further notice.
A report by Austrian news agency APA later indicated that a police officer was shot and seriously injured during the developing incident in central Vienna and that one person was arrested.
Several officials and community leaders responded to the shooting, condemning the attack, and calling on Viennese citizen to be careful and stay safe.
Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the Vienna synagogue and adjoining offices had been the target of an attack, and said they were closed at the time.
Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman World Zionist Organization, issued a statement Monday saying “I spoke recently with the Chief Rabbi of Vienna…it remains unclear if there were casualties from the Jewish community…we were required to close at this time all Jewish institutions, including synagogues and community buildings. We are of course hoping that there are no casualties at all. We will continue follow updates on the attack.”
A report by the Teletrader news agency later indicated a possible hostage situation, as hostages were taken taken at the Akakiko sushi restaurant in Mariahilfer Stasse, roughly 2.5 kilometers away from the synagogue in Seitenstettengasse. However, it is unknown at this point if and how the incidents are connected.
Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch said on Twitter it was not clear whether the Vienna synagogue and adjoining offices had been the target and said they were closed at the time.
Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told London’s LBC radio he was living in the compound of the synagogue. “Upon hearing shots, we looked down (from) the windows and saw the gunmen shooting at the guests of the various bars and pubs,” he said.
“The gunmen were running around and shooting at least 100 rounds or even more in front of our building,” he said.
Videos circulated on social media of a gunman running down a cobblestone street shooting and shouting.
According to Rabbi Jacob Biderman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Austria, all of the city’s synagogues have been accounted for with no known injuries or loss of life in the Jewish community.
“While there is much about this attack that we do not yet know, we are thankful that the Jewish community seems to have been spared from harm and extend our prayers for all those injured,” Rabbi Biderman told Chabad.org.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has seen two deadly knife attacks in Paris and Nice in recent weeks, issued a statement expressing shock and sorrow.
“This is our Europe,” he said. “Our enemies must know with whom they are dealing. We will not retreat.”
French officials have ramped up security since the attacks in Paris and Nice, which had suspected Islamist motives. Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites such as places of worship and schools, and ministers have warned that other Islamist militant attacks could take place.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed that “the thoughts of Great Britain are with the people of Austria – we stand united with you against terror,” wrote Johnson on Twitter, “deeply shocked.”
Swedish Prime Minister “strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in Vienna tonight, one of them close to a synagogue,” and adding, “my thoughts are with the victims and their families. We must all stand united against attacks on our open society.”
Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President of the EU Commission reacted to the attack and said “I am shocked and moved by the terrible news about tonight’s attacks in Vienna. A cowardly act of violence and hate. My thoughts go to the victims and their families and the citizens of #Vienna. We stand by your side.”
Vienna Archbishop reacted to the attacks saying that “whatever the background to the attack today, it must be clear that there is no justification for blind violence.”
Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre denounced also the attack, saying that “the Centre regards Vienna as the home-base of its mentor, Simon Wiesenthal, who was there targeted several times including a bombing… We stand in solidarity with the families of the civilian victims and police casualties, wth the Viennese Jewish community and with the current Austrian government as a true friend of Israel… We also commend the police force for their rapid response.”
In 1981, two people were killed and 18 injured during an attack by two Palestinians at the same Vienna synagogue. In 1985, a Palestinian extremist group killed three civilians in an attack at the airport.
In recent years, Austria has been spared the sort of large-scale attacks seen in Paris, Berlin and London.
In August, authorities arrested a 31-year-old Syrian refugee suspected of trying to attack a Jewish community leader in the country’s second city Graz. The leader was unhurt.
JTA and Reuters contributed to this report.