The man who opened fire near a Christmas market in the historic French town of Strasbourg, killing two people and leaving another person brain dead and 11 more injured, has been named by police as 29 year old Cherif Chekatt.
However police and security forces are facing questions after it emerged that the man, who escaped in a taxi despite being shot by in the arm by soldiers, had been on a security ‘watch list’.
He had a lengthy list of criminal convictions including several for serious cases involving robbery, and is believed to have been radicalised in prison.
He shoulted Allahu Akhbar, ‘God is Great’ in Arabic, during a shooting and stabbing spree before taking a taxi away from Central Strasbourg. The driver told police that his passenger had confessed to using a handgun to shoot people and had attempted to justify his actions. Born in Strasbourg, Chekatt had taken the cab to the neighbourhood in which he lived, and was reported to have shot at police after arriving there before evading capture.
He is now the subject of a manhunt involving more than 350 officers, amid fears he may have fled over the nearby border to Germany which is just five miles from the historic French city.
Chekatt had an ‘S’ Card, which means he was identified as a threat to national security by the French security services, leaving them facing criticism for failing to prevent his rampage. The system allows surveillance of those listed, however there are more than 20,000 people in france tagged on the system, including 10,000 identified as muslim radicals.
In fact, police said they had attempted to arrest him on Tuesday morning, just hourse befoer the shootings in relation to an attempted murder investigation unrelated to terrorism. They had found his house empty, although they seized a rifle, a grenade and four knives after carrying out a search.
The French government has increased its national security alert system Vigipirate to its highest ‘scarlet’ level.Interior minister christophe castaner said Chekatt exchanged fire with police as he “sowed terror”.
Mr castaner said: “350 police and gendarmes are currently on the ground to apprehend the suspect, supported by two helicopters, the Raid (french anti-terror police), the Bri (anti-gang brigade) and the Sentinel Force. Security measures have been stepped up at Christmas markets across the country, amid fears about possible copycat attacks.
In the aftermath, residents were urged to stay indoors and the nearby european parliament was placed on lockdown.
Antonio Tajani, the president of the parliament, said MEPs would not be intimidated. “Let us move on. We will continue to work and react strengthened by freedom and democracy against terrorist violence,” he sid.
Chekatt opened fire near place kleber, one of the main squares in central Strasbourgh. His victims included 45 year-old Thai national Anupong Suebsamarn, who had been on holiday in France with his wife. It was reported that they would have been in Paris but had changed their plans due to the ‘gilets jaune’ protests in the capital.
A young Italian radio journalist who was in the city to cover a session of the European Parliament was among those critically injured. Antonio Megalizzi, who works for the Europhonica radio consortium linked to universities, was shot in the head.
Yesterday, Chekatt’s father and two brothers were among four people taken into custody as part of the investigation.
The suspected attacker’s more than two dozen convictions also included crimes in Germany and Switzerland, according to court documents, and he has served time in prison in Germany as well as France.
France, has faced repeated terrorist attacks from both homegrown jihadists and foreign militants in recent years, including the attack on the Bataclan Concern Hall and other locations in Paris in 2015, attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store, both in Paris the same year, and theruck attack on a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice in 2016.
President emmanuel macron, who attended a interdepartmental crisis centre meeting, left without speaking to reporters but later tweeted the “solidarity of the entire nation” is with strasbourg, the victims and their families”.
Source : HeraldScotland