A mass shooting in downtown Prague claims 14 lives and injures 25 others

The mass shooting that occurred in downtown Prague on December 21, 2023, is a tragic event marked by its scale and impact. This incident, the deadliest mass shooting in the Czech Republic since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, resulted in the death of 14 people, including the shooter, and injured 25 others, three of whom were foreigners​​.

The shooting took place at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, located on Jan Palach Square in central Prague. The gunman, identified as David Kozák, a 24-year-old world history student at the same university, initiated the attack at around 14:59 local time.

Kozák, who had no prior criminal record, carried out the shooting in the university’s corridors and classrooms, targeting people at random. In the midst of the chaos, faculty and students sought refuge by barricading themselves in rooms and, in some cases, fleeing the building by jumping into nearby structures.

The police responded promptly, arriving within minutes to evacuate those inside and cordon off the area. The situation led to widespread panic in the vicinity, including Charles Bridge. Kozák eventually committed suicide on the building’s roof after being engaged by police gunfire​​.

Among the victims was Lenka Hlávková, a respected professor at the Faculty of Arts and the head of the Institute of Musicology, known for her specialization in medieval music and her membership in the Cambridge scientific association Academia Europaea. Her untimely death adds a poignant note to the already profound loss experienced by the university community and the broader society​​.

This attack, not linked to international terrorism, has sparked a nationwide day of mourning and calls for national unity by Czech President Petr Pavel. Prime Minister Petr Fiala canceled his scheduled events to address the aftermath of this tragic occurrence, and a thorough investigation is underway to understand the motive behind this heinous act​​.

As the Czech Republic and the international community grapple with the consequences of this tragedy, it serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of peace and the need for vigilance against such acts of violence.

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