An allegedly unstable armed man has burst into a restaurant in an eastern Czech town, killing eight people, then himself, in the worst shooting attack in the country’s history.
Nerves are running high in Europe after the deadly Islamist attacks in Paris in January that left 17 people dead, and the Copenhagen shootings earlier this month that claimed two lives.
But the Czech interior minister ruled out terrorism as a motive for Tuesday’s rampage at the Friendship restaurant in the town of Uhersky Brod, which saw panicked diners flee through a back door as two dozen shots rang out.
“According to the available information, this was not a terrorist attack, but one carried out by an imbalanced individual,” Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Twitter.
The town’s mayor Patrik Kuncar said the assailant, who turned the gun on himself after the shooting spree, was carrying two weapons and fired off 25 shots.
Television station Prima said the gunman, identified as a resident of the town in his 60s, had called its crime hotline to announce his plans.
Prima journalists immediately informed police of the threat.
“He introduced himself, and he told me to send reporters to Uhersky Brod,” Prima TV reporter Pavel Lebdusko told the Dnes news website.
“He told me he was being harassed by many people and that officials were not taking action. He said this is why he would use arms to deal with the situation himself.”
Kuncar said the gunman burst in around 1pm local time when about 20 customers were inside the town centre restaurant.
“The shooter ended up turning the weapon on himself,” Kuncar said, quoting police sources.
Police threw a security perimeter around the restaurant.
“A stranger entered the restaurant, pulled out a weapon and began to shoot people,” restaurant owner Pavel Karlik.
“I fled through the back door. Clients called the police immediately.”
The usually sleepy town of about 18,000 people was in shock over the bloodshed.
“I was calmly drinking a beer in the restaurant. Then suddenly there was gunfire. Staff quickly opened a back door and I fled,” an unnamed witness told Dnes.
Police said several people had also been wounded, including a woman hospitalised in a critical condition after being shot in the chest.
“I’m rattled by this event. I never would have imagined something like this happening here, in a restaurant that I know well,” Mayor Kuncar told state television Ceska Televize (CT).
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and President Milos Zeman sent condolences to the victims’ families.