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Strasbourg manhunt: France raises terror alert level as police search for gunman who killed two at Christmas market

Authorities launch terror investigation as 350 officers hunt for suspect

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 12 December 2018 10:03 GMT
Scene in Strasbourg after shooting leaves two dead and 12 injured

A large-scale manhunt has been launched in France for a suspected extremist gunman who shot at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, killing two people and injuring at least 12.

Authorities have launched a terror investigation, with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner saying 350 officers are hunting for the man, who was already known to the country’s intelligence services as a potential security risk.

The French government raised its security alert system Vigipirate to its highest level, “Emergency Attack”, triggering stricter border controls and reinforced security at all Christmas markets to avoid the risk of copycat attacks.

The suspected attacker has been named by police as Chérif Chekatt, a 29-year-old born in Strasbourg who has served time in prison in France and Germany for common law offences, and was reportedly known to be part of radicalised networks in Strasbourg and considered a “repeat offender” and a “delinquent”.


A suspected gunman on a security watchlist killed three people and wounded at least 11 more near a famous Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg is being hunted by police.

Interior minister Christopher Castaner said the suspect had evaded a police dragnet and was on the run, prompting concerns of a follow-up attack.

"Three hundred and fifty police and gendarmes are currently on the ground to apprehend the suspect, supported by two helicopters, the RAID [French anti-terror police], the BRI [anti-gang brigade] and the Sentinel force," Mr Castaner said.

"The government has decided to move the security level to "Emergency Attack" with stricter controls at the borders, and the implementation of reinforced controls on all the Christmas markets that are taking place in France to avoid the risk of copycat attacks."

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 08:58
Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 09:10

Five people have been detained as police hunt for the man who attacked the Strasbourg Christmas market, but the gunman remains at large, a senior French government official has said.

Laurent Nunez, secretary of state for the interior ministry, told France-Inter radio the attacker could have fled to neighboring Germany.

He said that three people were killed and 13 injured, eight of them seriously.

He denied reports of a police intervention at the city's famed cathedral but said the search for the attacker is constantly evolving. 

Mr Nunez said the assailant had been identified as a suspected extremist during his past stays in prison but said the motive for the attack remains unclear. A terrorism investigation was opened. 

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 09:18

Here's what we know about the 29-year-old man suspected of shooting three people dead at a Christmas market in Strasbourg.

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 09:28

Police officials said the 29-year-old attacker was wounded in a gunfight with soldiers after the attack on Tuesday night but escaped.

While authorities urged people in the area to stay inside after the attack, Strasbourg's mayor Roland Ries told BFM television on Wednesday that "life must go on" so the city doesn't cede to a "terrorist who is trying to disrupt our way of life".

The assailant got inside a security zone around the venue and opened fire from there, Mr Ries said.

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 09:44

The Strasbourg prefecture has said the gunman shot two people dead, revising down a previous death toll of three. At least 12 others were wounded.

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 09:49

Members of the German police search all the vehicles driving towards the border between France and Germany at the German bordering city of Kehl, in search for the gunman (FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images) 

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 10:02

Some 350 officers and two helicopters were searching for the assailant after Tuesday's attack, which involved shooting in multiple neighborhoods of Strasbourg, authorities said.

The assailant confronted law enforcement officers twice, exchanging fire, while he "sowed terror", interior minister Christophe Castaner said. 

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 10:16

The European Parliament is planning a minute of silence at noon to remember the victims of the Strasbourg shooting, which happened only a few miles from the legislature. 

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, called the shooting "a criminal attack against peace, against democracy, against our model of life".

He said even as the Parliament went into a lockdown late on Tuesday night, legislators continued their work until midnight.

"We have to go forward and not change our ways," Mr Tajani said. 

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 10:30

The French man suspected of attacking a Christmas market had been imprisoned in Germany in 2016 and 2017 on theft charges, and was deported to France in 2017, a spokeswoman for Germany's BKA criminal police said.

The suspect is a 29-year-old French citizen who is known to French authorities as a radicalised Islamist, the spokeswoman said.

She said German authorities were cooperating closely with French officials as a manhunt continued for the suspected attacker, who French authorities identified as Chérif Chekatt.

Samuel Osborne12 December 2018 10:45

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