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Shooting at Prague university leaves at least 14 dead, dozens wounded, officials say

Prague— Three foreign nationals were among 25 wounded when a student opened fire at a university in the Czech capital, Prague, killing at least 14 people, authorities said Friday. The mass shooting was one of the Czech Republic’s worst attacks in recent years.

Minister Vit Rakusan said police in Prague worked overnight and 13 of those killed have been identified. He also said three of those wounded were foreigners – two from Saudi Arabia and one from the Netherlands.

A State Department spokesperson told CBS News Thursday evening that it was “not aware of any U.S. citizens injured or killed at this time” in the attack.

The bloodshed took place Thursday in the philosophy department building of Charles University, where the 24-year-old shooter was a student, Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek said. The gunman also died, authorities said. His name has not been released.

Authorities warned that the death toll could rise.

Early Friday, with the scene of the shooting still sealed off by the police, people could be seen lighting candles to mourn the victims at an impromptu vigil by the university headquarters.

Police said Friday they have boosted security at schools and other “soft targets” – usually public facilities that are difficult to secure – in a preventive measure. University rectors also said they would work with police experts on more preventive measures to increase security around campus.

Police have so far given no details about the victims or a possible motive for the shooting at the building located near the Vltava River in Jan Palach Square. Rakusan said Thursday that investigators didn’t suspect a link to any extremist ideology or groups.

Officials said they believed he had no accomplice.

Vondrasek, the police chief, said they believe the gunman killed his father earlier on Thursday in his hometown of Hostoun, just west of Prague, and that he had also been planning to kill himself. He also said the gunman was suspected of killing a man and his 2-month-old daughter on Dec. 15, in Prague.

The chief described the shooter as an excellent student with no criminal record. He said the gunman suffered “devastating injuries” but it was not clear if he killed himself or was shot and killed by the police in an exchange of fire.

Police said the shooter had legally owned several guns – based on his home search – and that he was heavily armed during the attack.

Charles Univeristy issued a statement earlier mourning “the loss of life.”

Leaders from many countries, including the United States, and the U.N Secretary-General conveyed their condolences.

The Czech government declared Saturday a national day of mourning to honor the victims.

Czech President Petr Pavel said he was “shocked” by what happened and offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims.

Jan Palach Square is a busy tourist area in Prague’s Old Town. It is just a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque Old Town Square, a major tourist attraction where thousands of visitors have been enjoying a popular Christmas market.

Authorities evacuated everyone from the building and police searched the area, including the balcony, for explosives.

The building forms part of the square and faces a bridge across the river with a view of Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech presidency.

Where tourists, students and others would normally be enjoying the view of the iconic monument, chaos and terror instead took hold. Police vehicles and ambulances sped across the bridge with their sirens wailing. Officers sealed off the empty square.

One social media user posted a photo of a group of students, hiding crouched on a ledge of the building, Reuters reported.

Pavel Nedoma, the director of the nearby Rudolfinum Gallery, said he watched from a window as a person standing on a balcony of the building fired a gun.

Some video footage showed people being evacuated from the building and others trying to hide by a wall.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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