WATCH: Gunman kills 14, wounds 25 at Prague university

People being caught up in a shooting incident walks past an armed police man near the Charles University in central Prague, on December 21, 2023. Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP

People being caught up in a shooting incident walks past an armed police man near the Charles University in central Prague, on December 21, 2023. Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP

Published Dec 22, 2023


A 24-year-old student killed 14 people and wounded 25 at a Prague university on Thursday in the Czech Republic's worst shooting in decades, before authorities said the attacker was “eliminated”.

The violence in the city's historic centre sparked evacuations, a massive response by heavily armed police and warnings for people to stay indoors.

The shooting erupted at the Charles University's Faculty of Arts, which sits near major tourist sites like the 14th-century Charles Bridge.

"At this moment I can confirm 14 victims of the horrible crime and 25 wounded, of which 10 seriously," police chief Martin Vondrasek told reporters after the shooting.

All the victims were killed inside the building, he said. Media said at least some were the gunman's fellow students.

The Dutch foreign ministry said one of the injured was a Dutch national.

Vondrasek added the gunman, previously unknown to the police, had a "huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition" and that quick police action prevented far more serious carnage.

Well wishers light candles for the shooting victims at the Charles University main office in central Prague, on December 21, 2023. Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP

The government declared a day of national mourning on December 23, with flags on official buildings to be flown at half-mast and people asked to observe a minute's silence at noon.

Lists of missing students were shared on social media while those safe from the shooting posted messages to inform their friends and relatives.

Vondrasek said police started a search for the man before the mass shooting as his father had been found dead in the village of Hostoun west of Prague.

The gunman "left for Prague saying he wanted to kill himself", Vondrasek said. Police suggested earlier the gunman had killed his father.

Police searched a Faculty of Arts building where the gunman was expected to show up for a lecture, but he went to the faculty's main building nearby and they did not find him.

"At 1.59pm GMT, we received the first information about shooting," Vondrasek told reporters, adding the rapid response unit was on the scene within 12 minutes.

"At 2.20pm GMT, the officers in action told us about the gunman's motionless body," Vondrasek said, adding unconfirmed information showed he had killed himself.

Another murder

Citing a probe into social media, Vondrasek said the gunman was inspired by a "similar case that happened in Russia", without going into details.

Vondrasek said police believed the same gunman had also killed a young man and his two-month-old daughter in a pram during a walk in a forest on the eastern outskirts of Prague on December 15.

The police investigation into the murder that had shocked Prague was deadlocked until evidence found in Hostoun linked the gunman with the crime.

Vondrasek said no police officer was wounded in Thursday's action.

Police evacuated the building, using a concert hall across the street as a temporary refuge for the evacuees.

Czech President Petr Pavel said he was "shocked" by the violence and expressed "deep regret and sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims".

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the "lone gunman... wasted many lives of mostly young people".

"There is no justification for this horrendous act," he added.

Czech Police President Martin Vondraeek (L) and Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan (C) speak to the media after shooting at the Charles University in Prague, on December 21, 2023. - A gunman killed 10 people and wounded dozens of others at a Prague university on December 21, 2023, before the police "eliminated" him, authorities said. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP)

The worst shooting since the Czech Republic emerged as an independent state in 1993 also prompted messages of support from across the world.

US President Joe Biden sent his condolences, slamming the "senseless" shooting.

"The president and the first lady are praying for the families who lost loved ones and everyone else who has been affected," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed his "solidarity" with the Czech people, as did other European leaders including EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

'No other gunman'

Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said there was no link between the shooting and "international terrorism".

He added that "no other gunman has been confirmed".

Police cordoned off the area and asked people living nearby to stay at home.

An ambulance drives over a bridge towards the Charles University in central Prague, on December 21, 2023. - Czech police said a shooting in a university building in central Prague has left "dead and wounded people", without providing further details."Based on the initial information we have, we can confirm dead and wounded people on the scene," police said on X, formerly Twitter. Czech media said the shooting had occurred at the Faculty of Arts whose teachers and students were instructed to lock themselves up as the police action was under way. (Photo by Michal CIZEK / AFP)

Prague's emergency service said on X that "a large number of ambulance units" were deployed at the faculty.

Though mass gun violence is unusual in the Czech Republic, the nation has been rocked by some instances in recent years.

A 63-year-old man shot seven men and a woman dead in 2015 before killing himself in a restaurant in the southeastern town of Uhersky Brod.

In 2019, a man killed six people in the waiting room of a hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, with another woman dying days later. The man shot himself dead about three hours after the attack.