Prague: People in the Czech capital were trying to come to grips Friday with the worst mass shooting in the country's history that left 14 dead and dozens wounded inside a university building. The shooter is also believed to have killed his father earlier in the day and a man and a baby last week.
Political leaders, students, friends of the victims and others came together to light candles at an impromptu vigil for the victims of Thursday's shooting.
“A few of my friends study at the philosophy faculty at Charles University," said Kristof Unger, a student who attended the vigil. "They have been really traumatised by the shooting there and I just wanted to make them feel a little bit better.”
Robert Hanus, another of the vigil's attendees said, that everybody should come together to make a stand against the attack. “This shouldn't be normalized,” he said.
The university’s rector, Milena Kralickova, was also among the throngs lighting candles. "The academic community is shaken, deeply shaken,” she said.
The shooter, who killed himself as police closed in, is believed to have been Czech and was a student at Charles University.
Death toll could rise
Authorities said Friday that 13 people died at the scene in the Faculty of Arts and one died later in a hospital. A total of 25 people were wounded, including three foreign nationals — two from the United Arab Emirates and one from the Netherlands. Authorities warned that the death toll could rise.
Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said police in Prague worked overnight and all the 14 who died have been identified. Authorities did not release any names, but the Institute of Music Sciences confirmed that its head, Lenka Hlávková, was among the dead.
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Petr Matejcek, the director of the police regional headquarters in Prague said the gunman, who has not been identified, killed himself on the balcony of the university building when police officers approached him.
Police have released no details about a possible motive for the shooting. The interior minister said Thursday that investigators didn’t suspect a link to any extremist ideology or groups. Officials said they believed the gunman acted alone.
Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek said investigators believe the man killed his father earlier on Thursday in his hometown of Hostoun, just west of Prague. He said the gunman was also suspected of killing a man and his 2-month-old daughter on December 15 in Prague.
Feavily armed during the attack
Police said the shooter had legally owned several guns and that he was heavily armed during the attack.
Previously, the nation’s worst mass shooting was in 2015, when a gunman opened fire in the southeastern town of Uhersky Brod, killing eight before fatally shooting himself.
Charles University was established in 1348 and the Faculty of Arts is one of its oldest educational facilities.
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 a popular Christmas market attracts thousands of visitors.
Police said Friday they have boosted security at schools and other “soft targets” — usually public facilities that are difficult to secure — in a preventive measure until at least Jan 1. University rectors also said they would work with police experts on more preventive measures to increase security around campus.