Strasbourg terrorSearch underway for suspect in Strasbourg Christmas market attack

Published 12 December 2018

The French police has launched a manhunt for a criminal suspected of opening fire on a Christmas market in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening, killing two people and injuring more than a dozen others. The authorities regard the attack as an act of terrorism. The famous Strasbourg Christmas market has been the target of terrorists in the past.

The French police has launched a manhunt for a criminal suspected of opening fire on a Christmas market in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening, killing two people and injuring more than a dozen others.

The German police has been placed on high alert in case the suspect crossed the border.

The Telegraph reports that in France, hundreds of law enforcement officers are participating in the search.

Witnesses said the gunman shouted “Allahu akbar” before opening fire on the popular Christmas market around 8 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

At a news conference Wednesday, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz confirmed the two deaths and said a third person had been left brain-dead. He said the suspect used a handgun and a knife during the attack.

Following a series of terror attacks in Europe during the past few years, security has been increased at many public attractions such as Christmas markets. Soldiers and police were on the scene at Strasbourg when the shooting began.

The suspect exchanged gunfire with soldiers and was shot in the arm before fleeing the scene in a taxi, Heitz said. The prosecutor said that the man reportedly bragged to the taxi driver about the attack.

Police have identified Chérif Chekatt as a suspect:

“They say he was a 29-year-old man born in Strasbourg with a criminal record unrelated to terrorism. His criminal record was mostly robbery in France and Germany, where he spent prison time.

“[Chekatt] had already been flagged for surveillance by security services for religious radicalization after his time in prison, but [France’s] Interior Ministry said he was not suspected of plotting any attacks and they haven’t officially called this terrorism yet.”

On Tuesday morning, before the attack, the police in Strasbourg went to Chekatt’s home to arrest him on suspicion of homicide. Chekatt was not at home, but the police found a grenade, a .22-caliber rifle, knives and ammunition.

Authorities have detained four suspected associates of Chekatt’s, but Chekatt still has not been found.

The AP spoke to residents in Chekatt’s neighborhood in Strasbourg:

“A neighbor, who asked not to be named because the gunman was still at large, said he was rarely home. She said she last saw him Monday from her window, which looks out on a common hallway, and he was with another man.

“Young men from the apartment block said they knew him as someone who seemed destabilized by his time in prison. ‘You can just tell,’ said one, lightly touching the side of his head. They, too, feared being publicly named because the gunman is still being hunted by police.”

Strasbourg’s large Christmas market is famous in Europe, and has been held annually since 1570, according to the city. It welcomes about two million visitors a year.

This is the first brush of the market with terrorism. In 2000, French and German authorities foiled a plot to bomb the market on New Year’s Eve. The five accused conspirators, who were living in Frankfurt, Germany, were allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. Four men were ultimately convicted of conspiracy to murder.

In 2016, an attack on the Christmas market in Berlin left twelve people dead; the attacker hijacked a truck, killed its driver and then drove the truck into a crowd of people.

The suspect in that attack was at large for several days. He was ultimately shot and killed in a standoff with Italian police in Milan.