Gunman dead after killing 14 at Charles University

December 22, 2023 2:30 pm

[Source: BBC]

A gunman has shot dead 14 people and injured another 25 at a university in Prague, officials say, in the deadliest attack in modern Czech history.

Police say the 24-year-old gunman was also “eliminated” following the shooting at Charles University in the historic centre of the capital.

University staff were told to barricade themselves in rooms during the attack.

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Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he had cancelled upcoming engagements in light of the “tragic events” on Thursday.

The shooting started at about 15:00 local time (14:00 GMT) at the university’s Faculty of Arts building on Jan Palach Square.

Dramatic footage later emerged on social media showing some people jumping to safety from one of the building’s ledges several storeys up, and gunshots are also heard.

In a separate video, terrified crowds are seen fleeing the area popular with tourists.

At a briefing on Thursday evening, the country’s police chief and the interior minister said the gunman had been a student at the faculty.

They said he was from a village 21km (13 miles) outside Prague. The suspect’s father had been found dead earlier on Thursday. The gunman’s motives were not immediately known.

Preliminary information suggested that no police officers were injured in the attack, the authorities said.

The police said they were also working on the theory that the gunman may have been responsible for the deaths of two people last week in a forest near Prague.

Sergei Medvedev, a professor at the university, told the BBC he had been in one of the university’s auditoriums when the shootings began.

“I was giving a lecture at the moment and at first didn’t quite realise what happened because there were some sounds. The students… heard it better because I was so much concentrated on my talking, on my lecture,” he said.

“Then… we understood that something big is happening. There was nothing online yet, nothing in the Czech press and the [news] networks. Then at some point, the special operation groups went storming in, they searched the room briefly and then went out… they told us to stay inside.

“One hour later, another police squad broke in and then put us on the floor, briefly searched us then evacuated from the building.”

US tourist Hannah Mallicoat told the BBC that she and her family had been on Jan Palach Square during the attack.

“A crowd of people were crossing the street when the first shot hit. I thought it was something like a firecracker or a car backfire until I heard the second shot and people started running,” she said.

“I saw a bullet hit the ground on the other side of the square about 30 ft (9m) away before ducking into a store. The whole area was blocked off and dozens of police cars and ambulances were going towards the university.”

Britain’s Joe Hyland, 18, told the BBC he had heard four gunshots.

“Everyone was sprinting and running for cover. I have a bad knee, am on a crutch. So I hobbled as quickly as possible,” added Mr Hyland, who was on his first holiday with friends. “We got to the metro and went down there because we thought it would be safest.”