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Estonian leaders offer condolences over Prague shooting

Emergency service vehicles near the site of Thursday's deadly shooting in Prague.
Emergency service vehicles near the site of Thursday's deadly shooting in Prague. Source: SCANPIX/AFP/MARTIN DIVISEK

Estonia's leaders have expressed shock and sympathy over Thursday's mass shooting at the prestigious Charles University in Prague, in which 14 people have been killed. The Czech Republic has declared Sunday a day of national mourning, following the tragedy.

The Estonian head of state, President Alar Karis, noted on his social media account that he was "shocked by the brutal act of violence against people at the University of Prague – at a place that is a cradle of wisdom," offering his "deepest condolences to the families of the victims."

The head of government, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, similarly offered her condolences, adding "our thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured."

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margus Tsahkna, noted his "deepest condolences to the families of the victims and speedy recovery for the injured."

Meanwhile the Embassy of the Czech Republic to Estonia, wrote: "We express our deepest condolences to the bereaved and all those affected by the tragedy which occurred on the December 21 at the Charles University Faculty of Arts. For international students and their families: if concerned, you are encouraged to contact your Embassy."

Fourteen people have been killed, and a further 25 wounded, 10 of them seriously, in the shooting, which began at around 3 p.m. local time (4 p.m. Estonian time) and has been described by the BBC as one of the worst shootings of its kind in recent history, so far as Europe goes.

The gunman himself, aged 24, has also been "eliminated," the authorities say, and was suspected of the murder of a young man and his two-month-old child found dead in a forest just outside the Czech capital last week. He is also thought to have murdered his father, in the period of time leading up to Thursday afternoon's events.

The suspect was known to have been traveling towards Prague ahead of the incident, while the police evacuated a nearby building where he had been expected to attend lectures.

The gunman opened fire in the corridors and classrooms of the Charles University's arts faculty building, in the heart of Prague, apparently killing at random, while staff and students used furniture to barricade themselves into rooms.

The gunman had no prior criminal record, though a "huge arsenal" of firearms and ammunition belonging to him has been found.

President Petr Pavel has expressed his "great sadness" and "helpless anger at the totally unnecessary" loss of life, while Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said: "We are all shocked by this horrendous act," particularly given the timing in the run-up to Christmas, adding that Sunday will be a day of national mourning in the Czech Republic.

Founded in 1347, Charles University is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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