Hunt for gunman after Strasbourg market attack kills three
France raises terror alert level to highest as police search for suspect
STRASBOURG: France's anti-terror prosecutor Remy Heitz said that Tuesday's mass shooting attack is being investigated as a terrorist incident.
Two people were killed, another was declared brain-dead, and 12 others were wounded, six very seriously, Mr Heitz said.
The gunman was still on the run, but four people connected to him were detained overnight in the eastern French city, Mr Heitz told a news conference.
The shooting is being investigated by the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor's office because of "the place targeted, the way the attack was carried out, the gunman's profile" and reports of his shouting "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest), the prosecutor said.
The gunman, Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, has been sentenced 27 times in France, Germany and Switzerland for crimes including violence and robbery, Mr Heitz said.
He was flagged by security forces in 2015 as a possible extremist while in prison.
Security forces searched through eastern France yesterday for the gunman after the shooting.
More than 600 security forces personnel were involved in yesterday's manhunt in France, as well as border agents in Germany.
France raised its security threat to the highest alert level, strengthening controls on its border with Germany as elite commandos backed by helicopters hunted for the suspect.
French and German agents checked vehicles and trams crossing the Europa Bridge on the Rhine river, along which the Franco-German frontier runs, police said, backing up traffic in both directions.
"The hunt continues," Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said on France Inter radio.
Asked whether the suspect might have left France, he said: "That cannot be ruled out."
The gunman struck on Tuesday evening, just as the picturesque Christmas market in the historic city was shutting down.
He engaged in two brief gunfights with security forces as he evaded a police dragnet and was thought to have been wounded in the exchanges, Mr Nunez said.
The Paris prosecutor's anti-terrorism unit has taken up the investigation, suggesting that the authorities are treating the shooting as a possible terrorist attack.
No one has yet claimed responsibility, but the US-based Site intelligence group, which monitors jihadist websites, said Islamic State in Iraq and Syria supporters were celebrating.
Mr Nunez said the suspect, Chekatt, had spent time in prison in France and Germany.
"It was during these spells in jail that we detected a radicalisation in his religious practices. But there were never signs he was preparing an attack," he said.
A spokesman for Germany's BKA criminal police said Chekatt was deported to France last year and was known to the French authorities as a radical Islamist.
French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told Public Senat television there was no need for the government to declare a state of emergency as new legislation gave police adequate powers to handle the situation.
Singapore has condemned the vicious gun attack .
"We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wish the injured a swift recovery," a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said in a press statement issued yesterday.
It added that there have been no reports of Singaporean casualties or injured so far.
The MFA advised Singaporeans in Strasbourg to monitor the news and heed the advice of the local authorities.
Those in need of urgent consular assistance may contact the Singapore Embassy in Paris or the MFA duty office:
Singapore Embassy in Paris
MFA duty office (24 hours)
- REUTERS, AFP, THE STRAITS TIMES