PRAGUE (AFP) - An apparently mentally disturbed gunman burst into a restaurant in a quiet eastern Czech town Tuesday, shooting dead eight people before turning a gun on himself, officials said.
The interior minister ruled out terrorism as a motive for the bloody rampage at the “Friendship” restaurant in the town of Uhersky Brod by a gumnan in his 60s.
With tension high across Europe following deadly attacks in Paris and in Copenhagen in the last weeks, panicked diners fled through a back door as some two dozen shots rang out.
Nerves are on edge after Islamist attacks in the French capital in January left 17 people dead and two people lost their lives in twin shootings in the Danish capital earlier this month.
“According to the available information, this was not a terrorist attack, but one carried out by an unbalanced individual,” Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Twitter.
Mayor Patrik Kuncar said the assailant, a town resident in his 60s, was carrying two weapons and fired off 25 shots.
Police said several people were wounded, including a woman hospitalised in a critical condition after being shot in the chest.
Private television station Prima said he 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.”
Mayor Kuncar said the gunman burst in around 1pm as 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.
“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).
“Until now, we had only minor incidents, like punch-ups at the disco.”
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and President Milos Zeman sent condolences to the victims’ families.
Interior Minister Chovanec was on the scene along with the national police chief to run the investigation.
The assailant’s wife, who refused to cooperate with investigators, barricaded herself in the couple’s apartment, CT reported.