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Austria's deputy leader falls for Eiffel Tower hoax on Vienna attack

VIENNA (Reuters) - The deputy leader of Austria’s government told parliament on Thursday how moved he was by the fact that the Eiffel Tower had been lit up in Austria’s colours after Monday’s deadly attack in Vienna. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t.

FILE PHOTO: Austria's Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler speaks during a news conference, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Vienna, Austria October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

The neutral nation of just under 9 million people was shaken by the first deadly militant attack on its capital in a generation, in which a 20-year-old jihadist opened fire on passersby and bars, killing four people.

Following the attack, President Emmanuel Macron of France, which has suffered two deadly knife attacks in recent weeks, tweeted that the French shared the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people.

“I would like to say that it is a heartening feeling to witness, to feel the great sympathy from around the world, which really shows solidarity,” Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler, leader of the Greens, said in a speech to a special session of parliament on the attack.

“I was very touched when I saw on television that in Paris the Eiffel Tower was lit up in red, white and red, and other symbols of European metropolises sent similar light signals of solidarity,” Kogler said.

While images of an Eiffel Tower lit up in those colours in solidarity with Austria did circulate online, they quickly proved to be a hoax.

“I confirm that there was no specific lighting of the tower after the attacks in Vienna,” a spokeswoman for the company that operates the tower said.

It is not the first time there has been such confusion.

Old images sometimes appear online after an incident to suggest the Paris landmark’s lighting has been changed, such as after the death of Nelson Mandela with South Africa’s colours, when in fact the lighting did not change.

“It happens from time to time,” another spokeswoman said of the confusion.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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