A 24-year-old student has unleashed chaos at the heart of Prague, targeting Charles University’s Faculty of Arts in what is now the Czech Republic’s deadliest shooting in decades.
The assailant killed 14 people and left 25 wounded before authorities confirmed his elimination.
The shooting, which unfolded on Thursday in the city’s historic center near iconic landmarks such as the Charles Bridge, prompted evacuations, a massive police response, and urgent warnings for residents to stay indoors. Police Chief Martin Vondrasek reported that all the victims were killed inside the university building, with at least some identified as fellow students of the gunman.
The assailant, previously unknown to the police, possessed a “huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition,” according to Vondrasek.
Quick police action prevented even more severe casualties. The Dutch foreign ministry revealed that one of the wounded was a Dutch national.
As the nation grapples with the aftermath, the government declared a day of national mourning on December 23.
Flags on official buildings will be flown at half-mast, and a minute’s silence will be observed at noon. Lists of missing students circulated on social media, while those confirmed safe shared messages to reassure friends and relatives.
The tragic incident unfolded against the backdrop of a personal tragedy for the gunman. Police had initiated a search for him after discovering his father dead in the village of Hostoun west of Prague.
Vondrasek disclosed that the gunman had expressed suicidal intentions before heading to Prague.
The police response began before the mass shooting, as officers searched for the gunman who was expected to attend a lecture at the Faculty of Arts. However, he eluded them and entered the main building, where the violence erupted.
In a disturbing twist, Vondrasek revealed that the gunman was inspired by a “similar case that happened in Russia.”
The police suspect the same individual was responsible for a prior murder in Prague, where a young man and his two-month-old daughter were killed during a forest walk on December 15.
President Petr Pavel expressed deep regret and condolences, while Prime Minister Petr Fiala condemned the “horrendous act” perpetrated by the lone gunman, who took the lives of mostly young people.
The international community, including U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, offered condolences and solidarity.
Interior Minister Vit Rakusan ruled out a link to international terrorism, stating that no other gunman had been confirmed. While the investigation unfolds, police have cordoned off the area, and Prague’s emergency services have mobilized a large number of ambulance units to assist.
Although mass gun violence is uncommon in the Czech Republic, this tragic incident echoes past instances that have shaken the nation in recent years.
The community now grapples with grief and shock as the full impact of this senseless act becomes apparent.