Strasbourg shooter was radicalized in prison, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ during attack (Update: Eiffel Tower goes dark to honor victims)
The Strasbourg shooter has been identified as Chérif Chekkat, a 29-year-old man born in France who has a long criminal history. Having been convicted 27 times for robbery and other crimes, Chekkat was sent to prison between 2013 and 2015. That’s where he became radicalized and was placed on a watch list by French authorities. From the Guardian:
French investigators call them the “gangster-jihadists” – young men, often from poor immigrant backgrounds, who start with petty crime, drug dealing and robbery and graduate to terrorism…
Chekkat was born in Strasbourg in February 1989, into a family with Moroccan roots, and appears to have fallen first into petty crime then gangster circles. The final stage, his apparent move into Islamic extremism, was reportedly sparked – or at least strengthened – during a spell in prison between 2013 and 2015…
By the age of 29 he had  convictions for theft and violence, the public prosecutor Rémy Heitz said. On the morning of the Strasbourg attack, he was to have been arrested in connection with attempted murder linked to an armed robbery that went wrong last summer.
His religious practice and proselytising in jail were described by Heitz as “showing signs of radicalisation”. For that he was put on the Fiché-S list.
In other words, Chekkat was another ‘known wolf’ on a watch list with about 20,000 other suspected radicals, only a handful of whom are under round-the-clock surveillance. The NY Times adds that France has now declared the shooting an act of terrorism and notes that witnesses heard Chekkat shout “Allahu Akbar” during the attack:
The shooting at a crowded street market in Strasbourg, France, was an act of terrorism, officials said Wednesday, as the police continued an intensive search for the gunman who killed at least two people and wounded 12 others.
Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor, who handles terrorism investigations nationwide, said at a news conference in Strasbourg on Wednesday that witnesses had heard the attacker yell “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, and that the targets and the suspect’s profile justified the opening of a terrorism investigation.
Reports yesterday from the Associated Press and others indicated that four people had died, but today officials clarified that two people had died and a third individual is brain dead. Another 12 people were wounded in the attack, six of whom were seriously injured.
Finally, there was also a report yesterday at Sky News that the shooter had been cornered by police. However, the BBC reports Chekkat escaped in a taxi and is still on the run:
The 29-year-old was armed with a gun and a knife and escaped the area in a taxi, Mr Heitz said.
The attacker boasted to the driver – who has spoken to police – that he had killed 10 people, and said he had been injured in a firefight with soldiers…
Hundreds of officers are currently involved in the search for the gunman.
France’s Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nuñez earlier acknowledged he might no longer be in France. Strasbourg is close to the border with Germany.
Chekkat was wounded in the arm during a shootout yesterday but the extent of his injury is unknown. Chekkat’s mother, father, and two brothers were arrested last night.
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