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International News: Gunman kills 14 in Czech Republic’s deadliest attack at Charles University

Posted: Friday, December 22, 2023. 8:25 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: In what has become the deadliest peacetime attack in the Czech Republic, a gunman killed 14 people and injured 25 others at Charles University in Prague, causing nationwide shock and sorrow, CNN reports. The incident, which took place on Thursday and marks the first school shooting in the country’s history, has left the nation and its leaders struggling with an unprecedented tragedy.

On Friday morning, the atmosphere in Prague starkly contrasted with its usual festive spirit. A makeshift memorial, filled with candles and flowers, emerged at the university, as mourners gathered in the cold, despite adverse weather conditions. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, addressing the nation, labeled the event “a senseless attack,” and spoke of a deeply saddened Christmas season. Czech President Petr Pavel echoed these sentiments, expressing his sadness and frustration over the loss of young lives.

Adding to the international expressions of condolence, Pope Francis conveyed his deep sadness and spiritual solidarity with those affected by the shooting, in a statement released by the Vatican. Prague Police Chief Petr Matějček confirmed that the gunman, a 24-year-old Charles University student, died by suicide at the scene. Reflecting on the magnitude of the attack, Matějček, with four decades of policing experience, praised his officers’ swift action in averting further loss of life.

In response to the tragedy, Czech police have heightened security measures nationwide, particularly around schools and other potential targets, although no specific threats have been identified. The university area where the shooting occurred remains sealed off as the investigation continues.

Authorities are investigating the motives behind the attack, which took place in the Faculty of Arts building of Charles University, a historical and prestigious part of the institution. Among the identified victims is Lenka Hlávková, the respected director of the Department of Musicology. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed CNN that the injured include three foreign nationals, among them UAE and Dutch citizens.

The police chief revealed that authorities had prior knowledge about the shooter, including a tip-off about his suicidal intentions. This was followed by the discovery of the gunman’s father’s body in their home village of Hostouň and the subsequent evacuation of a university building. However, the shooter struck at a different location. Czech police have released body camera footage from the incident, showing the urgency of the response and the tragic scene inside one of the classrooms.

This event has prompted investigations into a possible link to a double homicide in a Prague suburb last week. The shooter, who held a legal permit for several weapons, underscores the Czech Republic’s comparatively liberal gun laws. While gun attacks are rare in the country, this incident has brought to light the potential consequences of accessible firearms.

The attack has cast a shadow over Prague, a city renowned for its cultural and historical richness, now united in grief over an unprecedented and devastating loss.

 

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