Shooting at Prague university leaves at least 14 dead, dozens wounded, officials say

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Prague — A lone gunman opened fire Thursday in a university building in downtown Prague, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 20 in the Czech Republic’s worst mass shooting, police and the city’s rescue service said.

The bloodshed took place in the philosophy department building of Charles University, where the shooter was a student, Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek said. The suspected gunman also died, authorities said. His name has not been released.

Vondrasek said 25 people were wounded, and authorities warned that the death toll could rise. Authorities had previously said 15 people were dead. He didn’t explain the drop in the death toll.

Foreign nationals were among the dead, authorities said. A State Department spokesperson told CBS News Thursday evening that it was “not aware of any U.S. citizens injured or killed at this time” in the attack.  

Police gave no details about possible motive for the shooting at the building located near the Vltava River in Jan Palach Square. Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said investigators do not suspect a link to any extremist ideology or groups.

Vondrasek said police believe the gunman killed his father earlier Thursday in his hometown of Hostoun, just west of Prague, and that he had also been planning to kill himself. He didn’t elaborate.

Later Thursday, Vondrasek said that based on a search of his home, the gunman was also suspected in the killing of another man and his 2-month-old daughter Dec. 15, in Prague.

Vondrasek said police believe the suspect killed his father in his hometown of Hostoun, just west of Prague, earlier in the day, and that he had also been planning to kill himself. He didn’t elaborate.

The chief described the suspect as an excellent student but didn’t provide any other information.

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A police officer cordons off an area near a university in central Prague, Czech Republic, Dec. 21, 2023.

MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty


The suspect suffered “devastating injuries” but it wasn’t clear if he killed himself or was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire with officers, Vondrasek said, adding that there was “nothing to suggest that he had an accomplice.”

The suspect legally owned several guns, and what he did was “well thought out, a horrible act,” Vondrasek said.

The government quickly sought to quell concerns that the massacre was back by foreign interests.

“There’s no indication that it has anything to do with international terrorism,” Rakusan said, calling the incident “a horrible crime, something the Czech Republic has never experienced.” 

“At the moment, it appears to have been the act of a lone gunman who is now dead,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said, similarly emphasizing the incident was “not an act of international terrorism or an organized group.”

“I would like to thank for all the expressions of condolences and support to the people of the Czech Republic after today’s shooting at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University,” Fiala wrote in a social media post. “It is very important for us in these difficult moments and we appreciate it very much.”  

Czech President Petr Pavel said he was “shocked” by what happened and offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims.

The building where the shooting took place is located near the Vltava River in Jan Palach Square, a busy tourist area in Prague’s Old Town. It is just a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque Old Town Square, a major tourist attraction where thousands of visitors have been enjoying a popular Christmas market.

Authorities evacuated everyone from the building and police said they were still searching the area, including the balcony, for explosives.

The building forms part of the square and faces a bridge across the river with a view of Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech presidency. 

Where tourists, students and others would normally be enjoying the view of the iconic monument, chaos and terror instead took hold. Police vehicles and ambulances sped across the bridge with their sirens wailing. Officers sealed off the empty square.

One social media user posted a photo of a group of students, hiding crouched on a ledge of the building, Reuters reported.  

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People on a roof following a shooting at one of the buildings of Charles University, in Prague, Czech Republic, December 21, 2023, as seen in this screen grab taken from a social media video.

Ivo Havranek/via REUTERS


Pavel Nedoma, the director of the nearby Rudolfinum Gallery, said he watched from a window as a person standing on a balcony of the building fired a gun.

Some video footage showed people being evacuated from the building and others trying to hide by a wall.

The Czech government planned to meet later Thursday for an emergency session to discuss the shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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