Armed police on the border between France and Germany in hunt for Strasbourg terrorist
Hundreds of security forces are scouring eastern France, while armed police in Germany ramp up checks on anyone entering the country, as the hunt for the Strasbourg Christmas market gunman continues.
More than 700 police, soldiers and Swat team officers in Strasbourg will be reinforced with almost 2,000 more soldiers in the coming days to guard public places, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said.
They are hunting for Chérif Chekatt, 29, suspected of shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he opened fire at Strasbourg’s famous market on the west bank of the Rhine river, killing two people, leaving another brain dead and 12 others wounded.
German police searched vehicles at the nearby border crossing with France, leaving unnerved commuters stranded in their cars for hours.
One man, who spoke German with a French accent and gave his name as Bernard Kalck, said he had been working in Germany for two years and crossed the border every day ‘without a problem’.Faithful dogs wait patiently at hospital door as homeless owner is treated
On Thursday, it took Kalck almost three hours to cover a distance of 1.24 miles.
Chekatt had a string of criminal convictions, mostly in France but also in Switzerland and Germany, for crimes including armed robbery.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told politicians that the French native, born in Strasbourg, had run-ins with police from the age of 10 and his first conviction at age 13.
It is believed he had been radicalised while in prison, was flagged for extremism and was on a watch list, but the interior minister said ‘the signs were weak’
Police say anyone who sees the ‘dangerous’ suspect should not approach him, but instead call an emergency hotline.
France raised its three-stage threat index to the highest level and bolstered troops around France.
‘It’s a large zone and the search is difficult,’ senior Interior Ministry official Laurent Nunez said on France-Inter radio.
Strasbourg is on the border with Germany, where the suspect was convicted in 2016 of breaking into a dental practice and a pharmacy in two towns.
Prosecutor Remy Heitz said he was shot in the arm by police when he attacked with a handgun and knife at around 8pm local time on Tuesday.
He then took a taxi to another part of the city, boasting of the attack to the driver, and later exchanged more gunfire with police before disappearing, Mr Heitz said.
Witnesses described shots and screams after the gunman opened fire and yelled ‘God is great’ in Arabic, he added.
Swathes of the city were under lockdown for hours.
Among those killed were Thai tourist Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, the Thai Foreign Ministry said.
Thai media said he and his wife had originally planned to visit Paris, but protests by the gilets jaunes in the French captial prompted them to change their plans.
Italian man Antonio Megalizzi, 28, was reported as one of the injured and was said to be in a critical condition, according to Italian daily La Repubblica.
Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament, attracts hundreds of tourists to its Christmas market each year.
Referencing previous terror attacks on the country, Mr Philippe said: ‘All terrorist attacks touch all of France, and it’s plain to see each of the attacks have hit a highly symbolic point or moment.’