Prague university shooting leaves 14 dead and dozens injured

Staff and students lock themselves in offices as student gunman carries out ‘premeditated violent attack’

December 21, 2023
Source: iStock

Czech officials have said at least 14 people have died and several more have been injured in a shooting at a university in the centre of Prague.

Staff and students reported having to lock themselves in offices and classrooms during the incident at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts in the city’s old town.

In updates on the social network X, police said they were called to a reported shooting in Náměstí Jan Palach, where the university is located.

Officers urged people to stay inside while the attack was happening and later confirmed the shooter had been “eliminated”. The gunman was reported to be a 24-year-old student at the university whose father had also been found dead in a village 20km away. 

“The entire building is currently being evacuated and there are several dead and dozens of injured,” police said in an initial update as the attack unfolded on the afternoon of 21 December. 

Czech emergency services later confirmed that 14 people were killed and 25 were injured, 10 of them seriously. 

In a press briefing, the city’s police chief, Martin Vondrášek, called the shooting “a premeditated violent attack” that had apparently been inspired by similar massacres abroad, The Guardian reported.

Reports said police had shut down a Faculty of Arts building where the gunman had been due to attend a lecture, but it was then thought he travelled to a larger building to begin the attack. Police said a large number of weapons had been found at the university. 

Footage showed people running away from gunshots and armed police swarming the historic building. Some hid by climbing out of windows and jumping off narrow ledges.

Staff in the Philosophy Faculty at the university received an email while the shooting was ongoing, the BBC, citing Reuters, reported.

It read: “Stay put, don’t go anywhere, if you’re in the offices, lock them and place furniture in front of the door, turn off the lights.”

Zora Hesová, an assistant professor in political science, confirmed in a post on X that staff had been told to lock themselves in their offices.

A student, Jakob Weizman, said he had been “stuck inside my classroom in Prague”.

“Shooter is dead, but we are waiting to be evacuated. Praying to make it out alive. Locked the door before the shooter tried to open it.”

The university said it has tightened its security measures including cancelling all planned events involving more than 20 people. It has also opened a helpline and a fundraising campaign to support those affected. 

“We mourn the lost lives of members of our university community, extend our deepest condolences to all those bereaved, and our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy,” a statement said.

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