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CRIME

Update: Strasbourg gunman, previously jailed in Germany, said to have screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’

The suspect in the deadly shooting attack at a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg was jailed for burglary in Germany and is said to have shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) before opening fire.

Update: Strasbourg gunman, previously jailed in Germany, said to have screamed 'Allahu Akbar'
Police in Strasbourg on Wednesday after the attack. Photo: DPA

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French authorities said Wednesday that two people had died and 13 people were injured during a shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg. Initially it was thought the death toll was three. 

Witnesses described the gunman's words before the incident, which occurred around 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening. French prosecutor Remy Heitz also described the shooting as a terror attack.

“Terrorism has once again stuck our country,” said Heitz.

Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries said most of the victims were men, including one Thai tourist.

Witnesses said the shooter shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest) before opening fire.

Over 600 people, including police, troops and helicopters were on the heels of the attacker who had “sowed terror” in the city.

The 29-year-old suspect, who is said to be from Strasbourg, was sentenced to two years and three months for burglaries in the city of Mainz and in the Baden-Württemberg state, and jailed in 2016.

“He served a year in Germany before being expelled to France,” a spokesman from Baden-Württemberg's interior ministry told AFP.

SEE ALSO: German-French border controls tightened as search for Christmas market shooter continues

According to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, the man broke into a dentist practice in Mainz, Rhineland Palatinate state, in 2012, making away with cash, stamps and gold used for teeth fillings.

Four years later, he hit a pharmacy in the Lake Constance town of Engen, Baden-Württemberg, pocketing cash.

However he was not deemed potentially dangerous Islamist, German authorities said Wednesday.

“For us, he was a blank slate,” said a spokeswoman of the Federal Criminal Police Office, which takes charge of cases related to terrorism.

An interior ministry spokeswoman also said that there has been no indications suggesting an Islamist link to the suspect.

Still looking for shooter

German authorities were on the lookout for the fugitive “along the Rhine” river region, the ministry spokesman said.

“But at the moment we do not believe that he has crossed into the country,” he added.

The gunman opened fire Tuesday evening at the famed Strasbourg Christmas market, which draws thousands of visitors every year.

Photo: Bing maps

The shooting left two people dead and13 people wounded.

French authorities said the attacker had been on their list of extremists and “is actively being hunted by security forces”. 

SEE ALSO: What we know so far about Strasbourg Christmas market shooting

Meanwhile, German police said they had detained three people in a taxi with French licence plates, after tipoffs given by the public following the Strasbourg attack.

The vehicle was halted on the A1 motorway close to the city Bremen, a police spokesman in Delmenhorst told national news agency DPA.

One of the passengers was masked, according to the report.

There was so far no indications that they were linked to the Christmas market attack, but police were checking the taxi for any suspicious traces and interrogating the three people.

Extra security measures in Germany?

Meanwhile, in Berlin, where a fatal terror attack took place at a Christmas market in Breitsheidplatz nearly two years ago, officials said no extra security measures were being put in place in Christmas markets, according to Berlin interior senator Andreas Geisel, reported the Berliner Morgenpost. 
 
 
Geisel said the Strasbourg attack, however, showed that the terrorist threat remained high. 
 
“This also applies to Berlin,” he said. “The police are prepared accordingly and protect the Christmas markets in our city visibly and with concealed means.” said Geisel.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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