As the international manhunt for career criminal Cherif Chekatt, 29, entered its second day, disturbing details of his extremist past were made public.
Not only was he well known for mixing in radical Islamist circles, but he was an open supporter of 9/11 mastermind and Al Qaeda leader Bin Laden.
Explaining how Chekatt was openly radicalised while serving time for a series of armed robberies, an investigating source told the Parisien newspaper: “In 2008, he had a Bin Laden poster in his cell.”
Despite being under surveillance after last getting out of prison in 2017, Chekatt was left free to shoot and stab 15 people by the Strasbourg Christmas Market on Tuesday evening.
Even after being wounded in a shoulder by a patrolling soldier, and then being fired at by a police unit, he still managed to get away.
French secret servicemen had placed Chekatt, who had 27 criminal convictions, on a ‘threat to national security’ watch list in 2016.
But this was not communicated to the German authorities who jailed him for burglary and then deported him back to his home city of Strasbourg last year.
An Interior Ministry source said: “He was under surveillance from then on, with conventional techniques used including monitoring his phone, but nothing particularly alarming emerged.”
When police raided the Strasbourg flat where Chekatt had been squatting on Tuesday morning to try and arrest him in connection with a stabbing last August, they found an arsenal of weapons including grenades and a rifle.
Beyond two men who were killed, and a third who was left in a coma, six others are fighting for their lives following the bloodbath.
The first deceased named was Anupong Suebsamarn, a 45-year-old Thai national who had been on holiday in Strasbourg with his wife.
Among those critically injured in hospital are 28-year-old Italian journalist Antonio Megalizzi, who had been working at the European Parliament, which went into lockdown during the carnage.
The manhunt for Chekatt, who initially escaped in a hijacked taxi, now extends across Europe, with more than 600 dedicated officers involved in the search in France alone.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz, who is leading the enquiry, said “terrorism has hit our country again”, and that Chekatt was still likely to be armed and extremely dangerous.
His mother, father and two brothers are currently in custody, under suspicion of helping him with his crimes, and his getaway.
Chekatt's attack follows a series of gun and knife attacks carried out by ISIS and al-Qaeda operatives in France, dating back to early 2015.
The French national, who is from an Algerian background, was originally identified as the Strasbourg killer through CCTV footage and DNA evidence.
Today it was reported Chekatt carried out the Christmas market massacre to avenge his dead brothers in Syria.
Cops also reportedly fear he is planning to carry out a suicide attack.
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