Friday 18 January 2019

Strasbourg Christmas market attack suspect killed in police shootout

 

Terror operation: French special police secure an area during a police operation where the suspected gunman, Cherif Chekatt (inset), was shot and killed last night. Photo: REUTERS
Terror operation: French special police secure an area during a police operation where the suspected gunman, Cherif Chekatt (inset), was shot and killed last night. Photo: REUTERS

Henry Samuel in Paris

The suspect in Tuesday's attack in Strasbourg has been killed by French police, authorities have confirmed.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner said Cherif Chekatt was shot dead during a police raid in Neudorf, the same suburb where he was last seen on the evening he killed three people and wounded 12 others.

Mr Castaner said a special ground unit of three police officers saw a man fitting the suspect's description walking down the road at 9pm.

"They called to him and at that moment, he turned to face the officers and opened fire," he said. "So they immediately riposted and neutralised the assailant."

"My thoughts are with the victims, the wounded, and their loved ones. They are also with the security forces who deployed. I am proud of you."

Roland Ries, the mayor of Strasbourg, said the "neutralisation" was "good news" and would help the city return to "normal life"

A French policeman stands guard over a body during a police operation where the suspected gunman, Cherif Chekatt, was shot and killed last night. AP Photo
A French policeman stands guard over a body during a police operation where the suspected gunman, Cherif Chekatt, was shot and killed last night. AP Photo

Strasbourg's Christmas market will be open to the public once again tomorrow after being shut since the attack.

Isil's propaganda agency claimed the slain gunman was one of its "soldiers".

More than 700 security forces had been trying to trace Chekatt since the bloodshed on Tuesday, when he is suspected of shooting and stabbing shoppers at the market.

The fugitive gunman had an Osama bin Laden poster in his prison cell a decade ago and said he shot victims at point-blank range to "avenge brothers in Syria" and to kill "infidels", it was reported.

The police raid followed the declaration of French authorities that they would take Chekatt dead or alive and brought to an end a massive manhunt in Strasbourg and the surrounding region, as well as across the border with Germany.

Yesterday, dozens of French police including members of the elite RAID force cordoned off an area of southern Strasbourg where the gunman was last seen.

Police blocked several streets in the Neudorf district, a short drive from the city centre, where Chekatt had exchanged fire on Tuesday night after getting out of a taxi.

A wanted poster of the 29-year old local - who had 27 previous convictions for theft and armed robbery and served sentences in French, German and Swiss jail - had been circulated on Wednesday

The poster of Chekatt, who was wounded in the exchange of fire with security forces, included the warning: "Individual dangerous, above all do not intervene."

At least five of the victims of his killing spree remain in a serious condition.

The third fatality, Afghan national Kamal Naghchband, died from a gunshot to the head he sustained while holding his young son in his arms. The 45-year-old, who fled the Taliban for 15 years before obtaining asylum, had been in a coma since the shooting.

Witnesses told investigators the suspect shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) as he opened fire on the Christmas market, frequented by two million people every year.

The photo shows a bearded man of North African descent with a blemish on his forehead due to frequent prayer.

French authorities said Chekatt was placed on a terror watch list in 2015 and had been monitored closely in recent months.

However, according to 'Le Monde', he had slapped a picture of late al-Qa'ida chief Osama bin Laden on his prison wall as early as 2008, when he was 19. "His radicalisation dates from before his time in prison," a source told the paper.

Two years later, in 2010, he actively sought to proselytise other inmates and threatened them if they were not assiduous enough, it said.

According to 'Le Parisien', he told a taxi driver he forced to drive him out of Strasbourg's city centre on Tuesday at gunpoint that he had killed his victims at point blank range in the head to avenge "brothers in Syria" and to punish "infidels".

The driver only escaped with his life because he had signs that he was a practicing Muslim in the car.

Irish Independent

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