Monday 14 October 2019

Seven held as police probe whether Strasbourg shooting suspect had accomplices

Cherif Chekatt was shot dead on Thursday during a police operation in the Neudorf neighbourhood.

Police on the streets in Strasbourg (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Police on the streets in Strasbourg (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

By Samuel Petrequin and Mstyslav Chernov, Associated Press

Investigators looking into the Strasbourg attack are trying to establish whether the main suspect was helped by accomplices while on the run.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz, who handles terror cases throughout France, told a news conference that seven people are in police custody, including four members of Cherif Chekatt’s family.

The 29-year-old was shot dead on Thursday during a police operation in the Neudorf neighbourhood of the city.

“We want to reconstruct the past 48 hours in order to find out whether he got some support,” Mr Heitz said.

Chekatt is suspected of killing three people near Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday night. Mr Heitz added: “A fourth victim is brain dead. Among the 12 other wounded, there is one person in a life-threatening condition and four who remain hospitalised.”

After a two-day manhunt, Mr Heitz said, on Thursday evening three officers patrolling in Neudorf spotted a man corresponding to the suspect’s description.

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Cherif Chekatt (French Police/AP)

He noticed their vehicle and tried unsuccessfully to enter a building. When police officers identified themselves, Chekatt turned around and opened fire.

“A projectile hit the vehicle above the left rear door, two police officers responded, shooting several times, and killed him,” Mr Heitz said.

Investigators found a gun, a knife and ammunition on Chekatt’s body.

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Remy Heitz (Jean Francois Badias/AP)

The immediate aftermath of the shootout was caught on camera from across the street, with video footage showing armed officers at the scene and a body slumped in a doorway.

More officers arrive at the scene soon after, followed by crime scene investigators.

The Paris prosecutor’s office formally identified the man as Chekatt, a Strasbourg-born man with a history of convictions for various crimes, including robberies. He had been on a watch list of potential extremists.

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Investigators on the scene after Cherif Chekatt was shot by police (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Witnesses said the gunman shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire from a security zone near the Christmas market on Tuesday. Security forces wounded the man but he escaped in a taxi which dropped him off in Neudorf.

More than 700 officers searched for Chekatt, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television.

Chekatt was known to police, but as a common criminal, not a terrorist. He had his first conviction at 13, and had 26 more by the time he died at 29. He served jail time in France, Germany and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, the Christmas market in Strasbourg reopened amid tight security after being closed during the manhunt for Chekatt.

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Christophe Castaner at the Christmas market (Christophe Ena/AP)

Interior minister Christophe Castaner attended the reopening and had a stroll in the market to meet shopkeepers.

Access to the market has been reduced while extra police and military troops have been deployed as well as private security guards.

Mr Castaner said authorities decided to reopen the market “for the honour of Strasbourg, for the honour of France”.

PA Media

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