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Updated December 23rd, 2023 at 18:30 IST

Police seek a motive as Prague mourns the 14 people killed in the nation’s worst mass shooting

Czech police investigated why a student went on dayslong violent rampage culminating in a shooting at the university he attended in Prague that left 14 dead.

Manasvi Asthana
Mourners gathered on Friday in front of Charles University in Prague to pay their respects to the victims of the country’s worst mass shooting.
Mourners gathered on Friday in front of Charles University in Prague to pay their respects to the victims of the country’s worst mass shooting. | Image:AP
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Czech police are probing why a student engaged in a multi-day violent spree that ended in a shooting at his Prague university, claiming 14 lives and injuring dozens. Investigators suspect the gunman, responsible for the mass shooting at Charles University's philosophy department, also killed his father earlier that day and was involved in the deaths of another man and a baby the previous week.

As the nation copes with its worst mass shooting in the historic capital, a spontaneous vigil brought together political leaders, students, friends of the victims, and others who lit candles to honor the deceased.

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“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 traumatized 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 everyone should come together to take a stand against the attack. “This shouldn’t be normalized,” he said.

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The university’s rector, Milena Kralickova, was also among the throngs lighting candles. “The academic community is shaken, deeply shaken,” she said.

The Czech government declared Saturday a national day of mourning.

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Petr Matejcek, the director of the police regional headquarters in Prague, said the gunman, whose name has not been released, killed himself on the balcony of the university building as officers closed in. Police have not released the gunman’s name, but said they believe he was Czech.

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.

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Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said police in Prague worked overnight and that all 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.

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. He has no criminal record.

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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 in the killing of a man and his 2-month-old daughter on Dec. 15 on the outskirts of the capital.

Police said the shooter legally owned several guns and that he was heavily armed during the attack.

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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.

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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 were working with law enforcement on increasing campus security

 

(AP Inputs)

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Published December 23rd, 2023 at 18:24 IST

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