A devastating mass shooting took place at Charles University's Faculty of Arts in Prague, claiming the lives of at least 14 people and leaving 25 others injured – marking the Czech Republic's deadliest incident of this nature in decades.
The alleged gunman, a 24-year-old student whose identity remains undisclosed due to the severity of his injuries, is believed to have died by suicide, according to Czech Police Chief Martin Vondrášek.
The shooting unfolded in the bustling center of Prague, near major attractions and just across the Vltava River from Prague Castle. The area, known for its popularity among tourists, became the backdrop for a horrific event that has left the nation in shock. The motive behind the rampage is still under investigation.
According to the police, the assailant had traveled from his hometown village of Hostouň to commit the unthinkable. Charles University, where the shooting occurred, was still in session on the day of the attack and was scheduled to go on Christmas break the following day, as indicated by the university's website.
Eyewitness accounts, such as that of graduate student Jakob Weizman, provide chilling insights into the moments when the violence erupted. Weizman and his professor took swift action, barricading themselves in a classroom, unsure of what might transpire. The scene inside, captured in a shared image on social media, depicted people seeking refuge on an exterior ledge high above the ground.
Weizman recounted the tense atmosphere inside the barricaded room, revealing the profound impact of the incident on those directly affected. The aftermath, as he described it, was marked by a haunting discovery of blood on each floor.
During a subsequent news conference, Police Chief Vondrášek revised the initial death toll from 15 to 14 and provided updates on the injured, with 10 individuals reported to be in serious condition. Further details are anticipated in the coming hours as authorities continue their thorough investigation into the incident.
In a disturbing twist, it was revealed that the police had received information about the shooter's intentions before the university attack. A tip had been received indicating the individual's plans to travel to Prague with the intention of taking his own life.
The situation took an even darker turn when authorities discovered a deceased man in Hostouň, believed to be the shooter's father. The relationship between these two events is however still under scrutiny.
Remarkably, the police were cognizant of the shooter's schedule, evacuating the building where his lecture was slated to take place. However, another shooting incident was reported in a different part of the university, leading to a challenging and dynamic situation.
Adding another dimension to the investigation, Czech authorities are exploring a potential connection between the shooter and a double homicide that occurred in Klanovice, a Prague suburb, just a week before the university incident.
The shooter, who possessed a valid gun permit and owned multiple weapons, has left the nation grappling with the aftermath of this unprecedented tragedy. In response, the Czech Republic will observe a day of mourning on Saturday to honor those who lost their lives.
Czech President Petr Pavel expressed deep sadness and termed the incident as the "most tragic" in the nation's history. The day of mourning will include various solemn observances, such as flying flags at half-staff, a nationwide minute of silence at noon, and tolling bells across the country in remembrance of the victims, as announced by Prime Minister Petr Fiala.