Terror attacker shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ at Strasbourg Christmas market

A gunman who shot dead two people and left another brain dead at a Christmas market in Strasbourg shouted “Allahu Akbar”, a French prosecutor has said.

Cherif Chekatt, 29, is still on the run after the attack on Tuesday evening, which also injured 12 people – many of them seriously.

The killer – who was armed with a handgun and knife – escaped in a taxi after being shot in the arm during a gunfight with police.

There are concerns he may have escaped to Germany and vehicles are being checked at the border.


German police in Kehl were searching cars at the border with France

Chekatt has 27 convictions in France, Germany and Switzerland, said prosecutor Remy Heitz. The include several serious cases of robbery.

He was also an “S file” security risk – reserved for people suspected of being a radical.

“Considering the target, his way of operating, his profile and the testimonies of those who heard him yell ‘Allahu Akbar’, the anti-terrorist police has been called into action,” Mr Heitz told reporters.

Strasbourg’s mayor has also said the shooting was indisputably a terrorist attack.

The prosecutor clarified that two people had died and another person was brain dead after the shooting. It had earlier been reported that three people were killed.

Sky sources have confirmed that one of the victims was a Thai tourist.

Witnesses said he was shot in the head and did not respond to attempts to revive him.


The market in Place Kleber attracts millions of tourists each year

The Thai embassy in Paris named him as 45-year-old Anupong Suebsamarn. It said he had just arrived in Strasbourg and was planning to travel to Paris on Thursday.

French president Emmanuel Macron is holding an emergency meeting at the presidential palace over the incident.

The terror attack began when gunshots were heard near the popular market in Place Kleber just after 8pm on Tuesday.

Police with machine guns were seen running into the square moments after the first shots were fired and it was quickly evacuated.

Officers chased the gunman for more than two hours before they cornered him and the shootout started.

A soldier was also wounded in the gunfire.

Four people have so far been detained as part of the investigation.

The 29-year-old gunman was born in Strasbourg and police said he was due to be arrested on Tuesday morning at the same time his home was searched.

A grenade, rifle and four knives were found in the raid on Chekatt’s home.

As the search intensified on Wednesday morning, there was a police operation near the city’s cathedral.

However, witnesses reported it was over quickly and officers were seen leaving the scene.

A Sky News source described how MEPs were among many people stuck in buildings in the hours after the shootings because of a security lock down.

Emmanuel Foulon, a press officer for the European Parliament – just two miles away, was in the square and said there was panic as people hit the floor to take cover.

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson, who had just left the market, told Sky News: “We were walking towards the scene of where the shooting took place.

“I heard over six shots and at that stage, there was chaos, confusion, everyone was running – there was pandemonium.

“There were some people with children walking towards the incident and we were telling them to move back.

“Most people were shocked, confused – there was pandemonium – people didn’t understand what was happening – we hadn’t [either]. We had heard the shots quite clearly and there were people running away from the scene.”

Sky News’ Europe correspondent Mark Stone said an airport-style security system to get on to the island where the market is held – in place two years ago – is no longer there, but police and soldiers were at the scene.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were “with all those affected and with the French people”.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, also said his thoughts were with the victims and that Strasbourg is a symbol of the peace and democracy of Europe.

“Values that we will always defend. The Commission stands alongside France,” he said.

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

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