In a harrowing incident on Thursday, a gunman opened fire at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts building in Jan Palach Square, Prague, resulting in ten fatalities and approximately 30 injuries. Czech police, responding to the emergency around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT), reported the shooter was later “eliminated,” though details of his death remain unclear.
The shooting, which took place in a central, bustling part of Prague, led to the immediate evacuation of the university’s philosophy department and the sealing off of the surrounding area, including the popular tourist route to Old Town Square. The Prague emergency services later confirmed the death toll, including the gunman, with 11 others seriously wounded.
Eyewitness accounts describe a scene of chaos and panic. Petr Nedoma, director of the nearby Rudolfinum Gallery, reported seeing the young assailant firing an automatic weapon toward Manes Bridge. Another witness near the tram stop recounted hearing gunshots, and Klara, a student at the university, spoke of the fear and urgency as police with submachine guns ushered people to safety.
Authorities warned staff and students sternly, advising them to secure themselves inside buildings. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, canceled his engagements and headed to Prague in light of the tragedy.
This incident marks a rare occurrence of gun violence in the Czech Republic, recalling the 2019 Ostrava hospital shooting and the 2015 Uhersky Brod restaurant shooting. The Czech Republic, known for its low rate of gun crime, is now grappling with the shock and aftermath of this unexpected act of violence.
The square, named after Jan Palach, a student martyr who protested the Soviet invasion in 1969, has become the site of another dark chapter in Prague’s history. Charles University, established in 1348 and among the world’s oldest, now mourns the loss and trauma inflicted upon its community.