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CZECH REPUBLIC: At Least 15 Dead in Czech Republic After Shooting at Prague University

The police said the suspect, who killed himself, first shot his father in a town outside Prague and then continued his rampage at the university. Aric Toler

By Andrew Higgins, Jenny Gross and Aric Toler

Dec. 21, 2023Updated 2:55 p.m. ET

Courtesy of The New York Times [website: https://www.nytimes.com]

di Emanuele G. - giovedì 21 dicembre 2023 - 1615 letture

At least 15 people were killed during a shooting rampage in the Czech Republic on Thursday, including 14 people at Charles University in Prague and the suspect’s father, the authorities said. Twenty-four other people were wounded at the university.

The gunman, a 24-year-old student in world history at Charles University, also killed himself after the shooting spree in central Prague. He first killed his father in their family home in the town of Kladno, outside of Prague, Radek Jiroudek, a police officer with Interpol Prague, said in an interview.

The police partly identified the assailant as David K. European police officials often give only a first name and last initial for privacy reasons. Speaking at a news conference in Prague, the chief of the national police force, Martin Vondraska, said the assailant “got inspired by a similar terrible event abroad.” He did not specify where.

But the authorities said they did not believe that the gunman’s actions were connected to international terrorism.

The authorities were investigating whether violent, expletive-laden Russian-language messages posted on Telegram under the name David Kozak were connected to the gunman, the police chief added. One message said that two mass shootings in Russia had provided inspiration — one this month at a school in Bryansk near the border with Ukraine, and the second in 2021 in Kazan, capital of the Russian region of Tatarstan.

“I was very inspired by Alina … very much,” said a message posted on Dec. 10, three days after a 14-year-old girl, Alina Afanaskina, opened fire on her classmates, killing two of them, with a pump shotgun in Bryansk. But, the message continued: “She certainly did not kill enough. I will try to fix that.”

Another post the same day said: “I always wanted to kill. I thought I would be a maniac in the future.”

A message on Telegram posted a day earlier said, “This will be my diary as I go toward school shooting.” That message was edited on Thursday, but it is not clear how.

The channel suddenly went “private” late Thursday after the shooting. By that point, David K. was already dead.

If the gunman and the Telegram writer were, in fact, the same person, it was not immediately clear how a native-born Czech who grew up in a small village in Central Bohemia would have acquired a mastery of the Russian language, including faddish slang used by young Russians online and a rich vocabulary of swear words.

The governor of the Prague region, Bohuslav Svoboda, said the gunman had fallen from the roof of the university’s faculty of arts building after opening fire on Jan Palach Square, an area of manicured lawns adjacent to the Vltava River that cuts through the Czech capital.

The police said the arts building, in Prague’s Old Town, had been evacuated. The square next to it was sealed off. Videos posted on social media showed people running away.

Mass shootings are rare in the Central European country, and alarm over the shooting prompted the prime minister, Petr Fiala, to cut short a trip to the city of Olomouc in the east of the Czech Republic and rush back to Prague.

President Petr Pavel of the Czech Republic said in a post on X that he was “shocked by the events at the faculty of arts of Charles University.” The university, The Associated Press reported, planned to tighten security immediately.

Though generally very peaceful, the Czech capital was on edge even before the killings, after a father and his baby daughter were found dead from gunshot wounds last week in Klanovice forest, a wealthy area east of Prague.

“I express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Czech people as a whole,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a post on X on Thursday. “We stand and mourn with you.”

In 2019, a gunman killed six people in a hospital’s waiting room in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava. That had been the deadliest shooting since 2015, when a gunman killed eight people at a restaurant in Uhersky Brod, about 180 miles southeast of Prague.

The interior minister, Vit Rakusan, said on social media that the shooting was “unprecedented” in the history of the Czech Republic. “I want to express my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims of the shooting,” he said.

The square where the shooting occurred is named after Jan Palach, a 20-year-old student who set himself on fire in 1969 to protest the invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia by troops from the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact. He died three days later, becoming a martyr to the anti-communist cause.

At the time of his death, he was studying history at Charles University, which was founded in 1348 and is one of the world’s oldest universities.

Barbora Petrova and Amanda E. Newman contributed reporting.

Andrew Higgins is the East and Central Europe bureau chief for The Times based in Warsaw. He covers a region that stretches from the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Kosovo, Serbia and other parts of former Yugoslavia. More about Andrew Higgins

Jenny Gross is a reporter for The Times in London covering breaking news and other topics. More about Jenny Gross

Aric Toler is a reporter on the Visual Investigations team at The Times where he uses emerging techniques of discovery to analyze open source information. More about Aric Toler

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