STRASBOURG, France, Hundreds of security forces were Wednesday deployed in the hunt for a lone gunman who killed at least three people and wounded a dozen others at the famed Christmas market in Strasbourg, with the French government raising the security alert level and reinforcing border controls.
Some 350 people, including police, troops and helicopters were on the heels
of the attacker who had sowed terror in the city, Interior Minister
Christophe Castaner said.
The killer opened fire at around 8pm (1900 GMT) on one of the city's
busiest streets, sending crowds of evening shoppers fleeing for safety.
Castaner said the gunman had killed three people and wounded 12.
Soldiers patrolling the area as part of regular antiterror operations
exchanged fire with the suspect and wounded him, but could not stop him
escaping, police sources said. A soldier was slightly injured by a ricohet
from a shot by the gunman.
Castaner also said France had raised its security alert level to emergency
attack with the implementation of reinforced border controls and tightened
controls on all Christmas markets in France to avoid the risk of a copycat
The gunman has been identified and was on a watchlist of suspected
extremists, a statement from local security services said.
France's security forces, already on high alert after a series of terror
attacks since 2015, are particularly stretched at the moment due to anti
government protests that have swept the country.
I heard shooting and then there was pandemonium, one witness, who gave
his name as Fatih, told AFP. People were running everywhere.
He said he had seen three people injured on the ground only a few metres
(feet) from the giant Christmas tree in the centre of the city.
Shortly after the shooting, lines of police vehicles and ambulances
streamed into the market area, under festive lights declaring the city the
capital of Christmas.
We heard several shots, three perhaps, and we saw people running, one
witness told AFP, asking not to be named.
One of them fell down, I don't know whether it was because she was tripped
up or if she was hit, the witness said.
President Emmanuel Macron expressed on Twitter the solidarity of the whole
nation after holding a crisis meeting with cabinet officials in Paris.
Known to police
Two separate security sources told AFP on condition of anonymity that the
shooter was believed to be a 29yearold from the city, whose name was given
as Cherif, and who was set to be arrested on Tuesday morning.
He was being investigated over an attempted murder, one of the sources
Several areas neighbouring the Christmas market were sealed off on Tuesday
night and residents were being told to stay indoors.
Many people took refuge in local restaurants and bars which pulled down
We let everyone inside, down into the wine cellar. They're locked in
there, local restaurant owner Mouad, 33, told AFP.
A police source, again speaking on condition of anonymity, said security
forces had opened fire in an area of the city where the suspect was thought
to be hiding.
The source did not give the address and it was unclear if the shooter had
Specialist antiterror prosecutors have opened an investigation into the
incident in Strasbourg, which lies on the border with Germany.
Several residents of the city have been detained in recent years for trying
to reach jihadist groups in Syria, or have been arrested upon their return.
Shocked and saddened by the terrible attack in Strasbourg. My thoughts are
with all of those affected and with the French people, British Prime
Minister Theresa May wrote on Twitter.
The Strasbourgbased European Parliament was also on lockdown, with MEPs,
staff and journalists unable to leave the building.
In a parliament bar usually reserved for MEPs, EU commissioners, powerful
legislators and staffers huddled in small groups waiting for developments.
Our first thought was for colleagues who had already made it to the centre
of town, who are safe, Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt told AFP. Now we
The Christmas market in Strasbourg and the city's illuminations are an
annual attraction that draws hundreds of thousands of people.
Security has been stepped up in recent years after a series of attacks in
France by Islamist gunmen and the Strasbourg market was long considered a
In 2016, a 23yearold Tunisian killed 12 and injured 48 others when he
ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in an attack claimed by
the Islamic State group.
Special antiterror army units have been deployed in Strasbourg, and
soldiers and armed police are regularly seen patrolling among the 300 wooden
Christmas market chalets.
Three years after groups of jihadists gunned down and blew up 130 people in
Paris on November 13, 2015, French counterterror officials say their focus
Rather than coordinated attacks, their main concern is attacks by lone
wolves selfradicalised individuals acting without links to terror groups
such as Islamic State.
Most recently a 20yearold Chechnyaborn man went on a knife rampage in
central Paris last May, killing one man and injuring four other people on a
A total of 246 people have been killed in terror attacks in France since
2015, according to an AFP toll.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)