Tuesday 12 December 2017

Victims of worst mass murder in modern Czech history mourned

Matthew Day and Agencies

Hundreds of residents of a small town in south-eastern Czech Republic have gathered to honour the victims of the worst shooting attack in the country's history.

Braving rain, they lit candles in front of the Druzba restaurant in Uhersky Brod, a day after the gunman opened fire during lunchtime, killing eight and seriously wounding a woman before he fatally shot himself.

Following surgery, the 37-year-old woman, who was shot in the chest, was not in life-threatening condition, said Dana Lipovska, spokesman for the hospital in nearby Uherske Hradiste.

Police identified the gunman as a 63-year-old local man who had no criminal record and had a gun licence.

A motive has not yet been determined, but authorities have ruled out terrorism.

A woman was also rushed to hospital in what police described as a "serious" condition.

Storm

Police believe that the perpetrator, who has not been named, fired about 25 rounds before turning the gun on himself as armed police prepared to storm the restaurant.

Milan Chovanec, the Czech interior minister, said the attack was "not an act of terrorism". Patrik Kuncar, the mayor of Uhersky Brod, said the gunman was local and "probably mentally unstable".

The attacker called a national television channel before he started the shooting, a reporter who took the call said.

"He said he was being bullied, no public institutions would help him, and that he had a gun and hostages and that he would deal with it his own way," said Pavel Lebduska, head of regional broadcasting at Prima channel.

He said the man had given his name but the station would not reveal it for the time being. He alerted the police immediately.

Diners at the restaurant spoke of people running for their lives when the shooting started.

"This man walked in, pulled out a gun and started firing," said Pavel Karlik, who was having lunch.

"I and other guests ran to the back of the restaurant and out on to the street.

"I thought maybe he was firing blanks but then I saw an injured woman."

Another restaurant guest told Czech television how he and others guests escaped through a back door when the gunfire started.

Petr Gabriel, who had spoken casually with the killer seconds before the shooting started, said he hid in the restaurant's toilets for two hours until the police arrived.

Investigators have confirmed that the killer had a firearms licence although they were unsure whether the gun used in the crime was legally owned.

They were also trying to work out why the man, who had no criminal record, decided to kill so many people.

The only indication of his motives came in a phone call he made to the staff of a crime investigation programme at TV Prima, a local television station.

"He introduced himself and told me to send a TV crew round to Uhersky Brod," Pavel Lebduska, the programme's director, told iDnes, a Czech internet news site.

"He told me that he would hurt a lot of people.

"He said he had problems and the authorities hadn't wanted to help him, so he had taken matters into his own hands."

The television station called the police but by then it was too late.

Prosecutors investigating the murders said they were at a loss as to why the killer had targeted the restaurant.

The mass murder has shocked the Czech Republic. Although the country has some of Europe's more liberal laws on owning firearms - including the right to carry a concealed weapon - gun ownership is still tightly restricted.

Anyone wishing to own a firearm has to take a number of tests, and demonstrate why they need a gun.

Bohuslav Sobotka, the Czech prime minister, said in a statement while on a visit to South Korea: "I am shocked by the tragic attack that happened today in Uhersky Brod.

"I would like to express my deepest sorrow and condolences to the families and relatives of the victims."

President Milos Zeman also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those killed in the attack.

The victims have been identified and were all from the region.

Control

The country's chief police officer, Tomas Tuhy, said authorities wouldn't reveal more information immediately because of the ongoing investigation.

The Czech Republic has strict gun control laws, but hunting is popular in the eastern European nation.

The attack shocked the town of 17,000 that is 300km southeast of Prague, the capital, and is home to the Ceska Zbrojovka gun plant.

(© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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