A gunman opened fire inside a restaurant in the Czech Republic on Tuesday, killing eight people before turning the weapon on himself, local media and officials said.
The fatal attack took place around lunchtime in the quiet town of Uhersky Brod, about 180 miles southeast of Prague near the border with Slovakia.
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told reporters at the scene that what was widely described as the worst shooting in the Czech Republic's history “was not a terrorist attack.”
One woman, believed to be a waitress, was seriously injured and was rushed to hospital after being shot in the chest. A man escaped by cowering in one of the bathrooms.
The gunman, described by the town's mayor as a local man in his 60s, reportedly phoned the crime hotline of a Czech TV channel shortly before the shooting. He reportedly said he had problems with many people and that authorities would not help him so he had no choice but to “take things into his own hands.”
The mayor said the man carried two weapons and burst into the restaurant where about 20 people were dining and opened fire at random.
"Nobody believed anything like that could happen in such a small town,” Mayor Patrik Kuncar told Czech media. “I can hardly imagine what consequences it will have for the future life in this town.”
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who is on a visit to South Korea, released a statement saying he was shocked by the events and offered his condolences to victims’ relatives.
One customer, Petr Gabriel, said he only escaped with his life by remaining holed up inside a bathroom for nearly two hours until police rescued him.
“At first I thought that someone was celebrating something,” he told Czech media. “But then people started shouting.”
Boyle is a special correspondent.