Armed police on the border between France and Germany in hunt for Strasbourg terrorist

Photo of Armed police on the border between France and Germany in hunt for Strasbourg terrorist
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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.

FILE - This undated file handout photo provided by the French police, shows Cherif Chekatt, the suspect in the shooting in Strasbourg, France. The French government spokesman says security forces are trying to catch the suspected shooter dead or alive, Thursday Dec. 13, 2018, two days after an attack near Strasbourg's Christmas market. (French Police via AP, File)
Cherif Chekatt, the suspect in the shooting in Strasbourg, France (Picture: AP)

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’.

thumbnail for post ID 8241286Faithful 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’

German police officers control cars at the French-German border following a shooting in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. A man who had been flagged as a possible extremist sprayed gunfire near the city of Strasbourg's famous Christmas market Tuesday, killing three people, wounding 12 and sparking a massive manhunt. France immediately raised its terror alert level. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Traffic is slow in and out of Germany as armed police officers check each car at the border (Picture: AP)
TOPSHOT - Two members of the French police unit BRI (Research and Intervention Brigade - Brigades de recherche et d'intervention) walk on the Pont de l'Europe (Europe bridge), crossing the border with Germany over the river Rhine in Strasbourg, on December 12, 2018, as part of searches in order to find the gunman who opened fire near a Christmas market the night before, in Strasbourg, eastern France. - Hundreds of security forces were deployed in the hunt for a lone gunman who killed at least two people and wounded a dozen others at the famed Christmas market in Strasbourg, with the French government raising the security alert level and reinforcing border controls. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP)FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images
Two members of the French police unit cross the border with Germany over the river Rhine in Strasbourg (Picture: AFP/Getty)
Flowers and candles are put with stickers reading
Flowers and candles with stickers reading ‘I am Strasbourg’ in the streets for the victims (Picture: AP)

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.

German police officers control cars at the French-German border following a shooting in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. A man who had been flagged as a possible extremist sprayed gunfire near the city of Strasbourg's famous Christmas market Tuesday, killing three people, wounding 12 and sparking a massive manhunt. France immediately raised its terror alert level. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
German police officers have stepped up controls on cars at the French-German border (Picture: AP)
epa07227782 French police officers patrol near candles and flowers placed where a person was killed during the Christmas Market shooting in Strasbourg, France, 13 December 2018. According to latest reports, three people were killed and several injured when a gunman opened fire at the Strasbourg Christmas market a day earlier. The suspect is reported to be at large and the motive for the attack is still unclear. EPA/RONALD WITTEK
French police officers patrol near candles and flowers placed where a person was killed during the Christmas Market shooting (Picture: EPA)

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.’

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