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STRASBOURG

Strasbourg gunman Cherif Chekatt shot dead by French police

The man suspected of launching a deadly shooting and stabbing rampage in the centre of Strasbourg this week was shot dead by French police on Thursday evening.

Strasbourg gunman Cherif Chekatt shot dead by French police
Photo: AFP

Cherif Chekatt, the gunman on the run since he killed three people at Strasbourg's popular Christmas market, was shot and killed by police in the Neudorf area of the city.

Police sources have told French media that Chekatt was shot dead during the operation that took place just after 9pm. 

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said: “At 9pm a local police unit spotted a man wandering in the street who matched the individual who had been hunted since Tuesday night.

“At the moment he was stopped the individual turned to face police and opened fire. Police responded and neutralized the gunman.”

Chekatt was believed to have been armed with a knife and a firearm. He is said to have been injured after exchanging fire with soldiers, but managed to escape and has not been seen since exiting the taxi in Neudorf.

The man who killed three people and left several others seriously injured when he attacked members of the public in the centre of Strasbourg on Tuesday night, is believed to have been hiding out in a factory.

Police had been carrying out operations in Neudorf throughout the day with residents moved out of the area as apartments were searched.

Chekatt had not been seen since getting out of a taxi in the Neudorf area of Strasbourg shortly after launching his attack.

A video was widely shared on Twitter claiming to show members of the pubic in Neudorf applauding French police after news spread that Chekatt had been found and killed.

 

He had a brief exchange of gunfire with police before going into hiding. Over 700 police and specialist anti-terror officers had joined the hunt to find the suspect who was a hardened criminal and known to authorities for having been radicalised to an extremist form of Islam.

While there were fears he may have fled into neighbouring Germany French police concentrated their searches on the Neudorf and Meinau areas, where Chekatt grew up.

Just before reports emerged that police had tracked down the suspect France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced that the city's famed Christmas market would reopen again on Friday.

Security around the market would be boosted with the number of access points reduced and shoppers subject to more checks.

“We can't give in to fear because life, the festivities, our culture, the joy, of which this Christmas market is a symbol, must win through,” said Castaner. 

The day after the terror attack and with Chekatt on the run French police released an image of the suspect in the hope the public would help track him down. They were warned not to approach or try to intervene with the “dangerous individual”.

A fifth person was detained by police for questioning on Thursday, in addition to the suspect's parents and two brothers who have been in custody since Wednesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed “the solidarity of the whole country” towards the victims as he arrived for a European summit in Brussels.

“It is not only France that has been hit.. but a great European city as well,” he added, referring to the seat of the European parliament in the eastern French city that lies on the border with Germany.

Member comments

  1. Chop his body into little pieces and feed it to pigs. Do the same with all other jihadis.

    That will put an end to it.

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TERRORISM

Strasbourg suspect: a violent criminal on terror watchlist

The 29-year-old man being sought by police over a shooting in Strasbourg lived in a small apartment in a ramshackle housing bloc and has convictions in France, Switzerland and Germany after a life of crime.

Strasbourg suspect: a violent criminal on terror watchlist
On Wednesday, onlookers laid candles for the victims of the attack in Strasbourg. Photo: DPA

The man, identified as Cherif C. by French authorities who have not given his full name, lived in the Poteries area of Strasbourg about a 20-minute tram ride west of the centre of the French city and its Christmas market.

“It's a building for desperate people. No one wants to live there,” one local, Bemba N'diaye, 37, told an AFP reporter near the nine-storey concrete bloc where Cherif's name is on a letterbox.

“People there are very isolated,” N'diaye said.

Others said the man was known in the area owing to his criminal record, but he kept a low profile.

“His family has lived around here for a while, but he lived on his own nearby,” Zach, a 22-year-old, said. “He was discreet, not a thug.”

The undated photo, provided by the French police, shows Cherif C., who police are searching for in connection with the the Christmas market in Strasbourg. Photo: DPA

The suspected gunman has been sentenced an extraordinary 27 times, mostly in France where he was born, but also in Germany and Switzerland which are easily reached from Strasbourg.

His crimes range from violence to robbery, but not terrorism.

Cherif was added to a watchlist of possible extremists while in prison in France in 2015 after he “called for practising a radical form of religion,” French deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said on Wednesday.

He has since been monitored by France's domestic intelligence agency, the DGSI, which is highly stretched due to the large number of suspected extremists in France.

Some 25,000 people are currently on the “S” extremism watchlist, 9,700 of them for radicalism “linked mainly to Islamist terror movements,” according to the interior ministry.

“He is an individual who has unfortunately been known for a very long time for crime,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told French MPs on Wednesday.

“From the age of 10, his behaviour was already criminal. He had his first sentence at 13 years old,” Castaner said.

On his identity card, seen by an AFP reporter, the suspect has dark eyes, black hair and a short beard.

Cross-border crime 

Police had tried to detain Cherif on Tuesday morning in connection with an attempted murder enquiry, but he was not at home, Nunez told France Inter radio on Wednesday.

A grenade, four knives and a rifle were found during a search of his apartment, prosecutors have said.

He is “known for a number of criminal offences (…) but has never been linked to terrorist offences,” Nunez added. 

On Wednesday onlookers placed candles and messages near the scene of the crimes in Strasbourg, as the hunt for the perpetrator continued. 

German authorities were on the lookout for the fugitive on Wednesday “along the Rhine” river which serves as the border between France and Germany, a spokesman from the Baden-Wuerttemberg region said.

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

According to Germany's Tagesspiegel newspaper, Cherif 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 targeted a pharmacy in the Lake Constance town of Engen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, pocketing cash. He served a year behind bars in 2016 before being expelled back to France.

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