Young Muslim heroes hailed for helping victims during Vienna attack

Published November 4, 2020
Recep Gultekin (right) and Mikail Ozen (left) were invited to Turkey's embassy in Vienna to recognise them for their act. — Anadolu Agency
Recep Gultekin (right) and Mikail Ozen (left) were invited to Turkey's embassy in Vienna to recognise them for their act. — Anadolu Agency

Two young Austrians of Turkish origin have been hailed for their courage following Monday's gun attack in the capital Vienna, after footage of them intervening to aid wounded people including a policeman spread across social media.

A video shot from a nearby building shows the pair running to a metro station exit and helping panicked passers-by to take cover — as gunshots were still echoing down the street.

On Tuesday, the interior ministry confirmed, without naming the two friends, that they had helped during the attack late Monday by a radicalised young man from North Macedonia.

The assailant killed four people before being shot dead by police.

A young Palestinian man was also praised as a hero for assisting an injured police officer.

Mikail Ozen and Recep Tayyip Gultekin, both Austrian citizens from Turkish backgrounds, had planned to “drink a last coffee” together at bustling Schwedenplatz before the country's coronavirus lockdown came into effect, they said in a video posted online immediately after the attack.

The first shots could be heard even as they arrived at the busy square by the river to find “people lying on the ground covered in blood”, Ozen recalled.

They went to help a panicked older woman who was looking for a place to hide — only to see a wounded policeman lying on the ground.

“We couldn't act as if we hadn't seen him,” Ozen said. “We ran and carried him to the ambulance” by supporting him under his shoulders as the gunfire continued.

The policeman was given first aid by a Palestinian man, Osama Joda, a BBC report said.

Joda, 23, was working at a nearby McDonalds when the attacker opened fire on passers-by. One of the police officers who arrived at the scene was also shot.

"I pulled him behind the concrete bench and tried to stop the bleeding," Joda told local newspaper Kurier. "There was blood everywhere."

The perpetrator fled after more police personnel arrived, and Joda then helped drag the officer to a nearby ambulance with help from Ozen and Gultekin.

Gultekin was also shot in the leg and suffered a minor injury while aiding the elderly woman and carrying her to a restaurant.

The two semi-professional martial artists issued an appeal for unity between “Jews, Christians and Muslims” that was picked up by many Austrian media outlets.

“We're Muslims of Turkish origin, we hate any kind of terrorism. We're with Austria, with Vienna, we respect Austria,” they said into the camera lens.

Turkish media reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called the pair to congratulate them.

The two young men were also invited to the Turkish embassy in Vienna where Turkey's ambassador to Austria Ozan Ceyhun praised their conduct, according to the BBC.

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