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By BosNewsLife News Center with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
PRAGUE/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– The Czech Republic is in shock after nine people, including the gunman, died in a shooting at a restaurant in the town of Uhersky Brod, 300 kilometers south west of Prague, though the government denied it was a terrorist attack.
Residents were seen placing candles near the Druzba restaurant, whose name ironically means “friendship”, as residents tried to come to terms with the bloodiest attack in their country’s history.
Witnesses said a gunman in his 60s stormed the establishment and fired as many as 25 rounds during lunchtime, shaking a small town that is home to the famed Ceska Zbrojovka gun factory.
The restaurant’s owner, Pavel Karlik, told reporters that the man had walked in and started shooting with a handgun.
“I immediately ran out through the back door, along with other guests who then called ambulance and police,” he said. But for many it was too late: At least eight people died before the man fatally shot himself.
Several people were wounded, including a waitress who was hospitalized with wounds and is in serious condition, officials said. Nearby an emergency medical helicopter tried to rapidly transport those injured.
Another visitor, Petr Gabriel, was in the restaurant’s bathroom when the shooting began. He stayed there until he was found by police two long hours later. “That saved my life,” Gabriel told Czech public television.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec rushed to the scene after calling the gunman an “insane murderer”.
He also said that “We can say this was not a terrorist act.” The minister also revealed that the shooter had a gun licence, despite having mental problems.
Yet Mayor Patrik Kuncar remained surprised. “Nobody believed anything like that could happen in such a small town. I can hardly imagine what consequences it will have for the future life in this town,” he said.
PRIME MINISTER SHOCKED
Bohuslav Sobotka, the Czech prime minister, offered his sympathy to the relatives of those who died. “I am like most people shocked by the tragic attack.”
National police chief Tomas Tuhy said the incident was the worst on record.
Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, was among the first leaders
to offer his condolences. Through social media site Twitter he said he was “Horrified at reports of the” shooting which he called “an act of unspeakable violence.”
He said: “Our thoughts are with the victims, families and Czech people.”
In an incident in similar scope in the communist Czechoslovakia, a female driver intentionally hit with her truck a group of people waiting for a tram in Prague, killing eight. She was later executed.
The Czech Republic became an independent nation in 1993 after Czechoslovakia split in two.