At least 14 people killed in mass shooting at university in downtown Prague

Gunman, who was a student in philosophy department at Charles University, shot dead, police say; Czech minister says incident has no link to international terrorism

Ambulances and police cars are seen near the Charles University in central Prague, on December 21, 2023, amid a mass shooting. (Michal CIizek/AFP)
Ambulances and police cars are seen near the Charles University in central Prague, on December 21, 2023, amid a mass shooting. (Michal CIizek/AFP)

A gunman killed 14 people and wounded dozens of others at a Prague university on Thursday, in the Czech Republic’s worst shooting in decades, before the police “eliminated” him, authorities said.

The violence in the Czech capital’s historic center sparked panic, a massive police response and warnings for people to stay indoors.

The bloodshed took place in the philosophy department building of Charles University, where the shooter was a student, Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek said. He has not been named publicly.

“More than 15 people have lost their lives and at least 24 have been wounded,” Vondrasek told reporters following the shooting.

Vondrasek said police believe the gunman killed his father in his hometown of Hostoun, just west of Prague, earlier in the day, and that he had also been planning to kill himself. He didn’t elaborate.

The shooter legally owned several guns, and what he did was “well thought out, a horrible act,” Vondrasek said, describing him as an excellent student with no criminal record.

Armed police are seen on the balcony of the Charles University in central Prague, on December 21, 2023, amid a mass shooting at the school. (Michal Cizek/AFP)

Police said they were still searching the area, including the balcony, for possible explosives. The building was evacuated, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said.

The shooting was not linked to international terrorism, the Czech government said Thursday.

“There is no indication that this crime has any link to international terrorism,” Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan told reporters.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog wrote on X that he was “deeply saddened to hear of the mass-shooting in Prague, and send my condolences” to the leadership and citizens of the Czech Republic. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones, and we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”

Vondrasek said that 24 people were injured, and authorities warned that the death toll could rise. Prague’s emergency service said on X that “a large number of ambulance units” were deployed at the department.

The private Nova TV reported a blast and a gunman on the roof of the building in Prague’s historic center.

Rakusan said “no other gunman has been confirmed,” and called on people to follow police instructions. Police closed the area and asked people living nearby to stay at home.

Pavel Nedoma, the director of Rudolfinum Gallery, which also is located in the square, told Czech public television he saw from a window a person who was shooting from a gun toward the nearby Manes bridge across the Vltava River.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala canceled his scheduled events and was heading for Prague: The “lone gunman… wasted many lives of mostly young people,” he said. “There is no justification for this horrendous act.”

Czech President Petr Pavel said he was “shocked” by the shooting.

“I am shocked by the events… I would like to express my deep regret and sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims claimed by the shooting,” Pavel, who is winding up a two-day visit to Paris on Thursday, wrote on X.

US President Joe Biden sent his condolences, slamming the “senseless” shooting.

“The president and the first lady are praying for the families who lost loved ones and everyone else who has been affected by the senseless act of violence,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed his “solidarity” with the Czech people, as did many other European leaders including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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