Strasbourg terrorist escapes cops by hijacking taxi after shooting dead three in Christmas market attack




More than 600 police and soldiers are hunting the terror suspect – named as locally born Cherif Chekatt, who was known to police as a violent criminal.

A terror investigation has been launched and the city is on total lockdown as they search for the 29-year-old who had been deemed a "threat to the state".


What we know so far:

  • The gunman opened fire near Strasbourg's Christmas market killing three at about 8pm yesterday
  • At least 13 more were injured – including a tourist shot in the stomach
  • A terror investigation has been launched
  • Police sources have named him as Strasbourg born 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt
  • He was on an "S File security risk" – which means  an individual considered to be a serious threat to national security.
  • Reports say he was wounded in a shootout with armed cops and troops
  • He is still on the run after hijacking a taxi at gunpoint just before midnight
  • Grenades were reportedly found by cops at the home of the gunman on Tuesday morning after they raided his property over an unrelated armed robbery
  • The European Parliament was placed on lockdown following the outrage
  • The motive behind the gun attack was not immediately clear, said cops
  • Police have detained five people but the gunman remains at large

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France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner described him last night as a "common criminal".

Grenades were reportedly found at Chekatt's home after a police raided to arrest him over an unrelated armed robbery but found him missing yesterday, according to a police source.

"The grenades were made safe and then confiscated following a search after the suspect went on the run on Tuesday morning," said the source.

Chekatt was described by cops as an "S File security risk" – which means  an individual considered to be a serious threat to national security.

Local sources say he had been sentenced in 2011 and most recently again in 2015.

Castaner added that after yesterday mornings unsuccessful raid Chekatt "went on the run".

He had also been flagged as risk in neighbouring Germany were he did a spell in prison last year before being deported back to France.

Laurent Nunez, a minister in the Interior Ministry, said this morning he may have fled across the border to Germany.

Some 26,000 individuals suspected of posing a security risk to France are on the watch list, of whom about 10,000 are believed to have been radicalised online or abroad.


"There were gun shots and people running everywhere," one local shopkeeper told BFM TV.  "It lasted about 10 minutes."
France has raised its threat level to 'attack emergency' – its highest level – after the shooting.

Mayor of Strasbourg Roland Ries said the gunman carried out the attack inside a "security zone" surrounding the market in Place Kleber.

Christmas shoppers and tourists cowered in shops and restaurants as gunfire rang out.



Armed police and soldiers reportedly exchanged fire with the shooter, wounding him when he fled on foot.

He was then reported to be holed-up in a shop before making his dramatic escape.

The mayor said he "got away in a taxi, and was still on the loose" in the city.

The taxi was later found abandoned and the taxi driver was unharmed.

At least one tourist is among the injured after being blasted in the stomach by the shooter.

Security officials cordoned off the market area and all trams were stopped, according to reports from the scene.

The European Parliament was also placed on lockdown with the orders "no one goes in, no one goes out."


Witness Peter Fritz said he tried to help a Thai tourist lying on the ground with an apparent head wound after hearing "two distinct noises" which he initially took to be firecrackers.

He told the BBC: "We tried our best to resuscitate him, we applied CPR, we dragged him into a restaurant close by and had help with some medical people from Germany, but it took more than 45 minutes for an ambulance to appear.




"After 45 minutes we were told over the phone by an emergency doctor that any further efforts would be futile. He's still here in this restaurant but we have abandoned all hope for him.

"His wife is also still here in a state of shock."

Mr Fritz said the man appeared to be aged in his thirties.

Doris Manou told the BBC: "Earlier on I was walking around the Christmas market in central Strasbourg and I passed Place Kleber where the shooting took place just minutes before it happened.

"Then I continued walking on Rue du Dome when I saw the army with a group of 10-12 soldiers walking towards me with their guns pointed to the street and around them everyone was running from all directions.

"The soldiers were very focused on their mission, they were running."

She said she and several others then threw themselves to the floor in a courtyard of a building thinking there could be a bomb, before some students in a nearby building offered them refuge.

She said she remains sheltered in the building having been advised it is not yet safe to leave.

Some of those on the scene reported they had seen victims lying on the street following the shooting.

A source at the prosecutor's office said the motive behind the gun attack was not immediately clear and that an investigation was under way to see if it was terror-related.

French president Emannuel Macron held an emergency security meeting with his cabinet before tweeting that the whole of France stood with the city and its victims.

Regional authorities confirmed an "ongoing incident" in the city but gave no further details.




The interior ministry described the incident as a “serious security event” and warned the public to stay indoors.

Several sites in the city centre are concerned, it added, including rue des Orfèvres, rue des Grandes-Arcades and Grand'Rue.

Local journalist Bruno Poussard wrote on Twitter that there had been a dozen shots fired on his street in the city centre.

Emmanuel Foulon, a press officer for the European Parliament, wrote that there was "panic" following the sound of gunfire and armed cops were seen running through the streets.




Strasbourg deputy mayor Alain Fontanel tweeted: "Shooting in downtown Strasbourg. Thank you all for staying home while waiting for a clarification of the situation."

Yorkshire and the Humber Labour MEP Linda McAvan tweeted: "There's a shooting incident tonight in Strasbourg centre where Xmas market takes place.

"European Parliament on lock down. I and my staff are safe in the building."

Several other MEPs tweeted to say that both they and their staffs were safe and accounted for.

The European Parliament building is around two miles from the centre of Strasbourg.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said on Twitter: "The police informed me tonight of a shooting in Strasbourg with possibly one victim and several wounded.

"The perpetrator is still on the run. This is a serious incident and I advise all staff and visitors to stay at home or indoors for the moment."

Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe with 300 wooden chalets set up in the city's historic centre from November 23 to Christmas Eve.

 

It was being held amid tight security this year, with unauthorised vehicles banned from surrounding streets during opening hours and checkpoints set up on bridges and access points to search pedestrians' bags.

One of the biggest Christmas trees in Europe is put up in Place Kleber, the largest square in the city, which was named after French general Jean-Baptiste Kleber who was born in Strasbourg in 1753.

France remains on high alert after suffering a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by ISIS militants in 2015 and 2016, which killed more than 200 people.

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