Germany opens probe against Strasbourg attack suspect

The suspected gunman who killed three people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg has been killed, two police sources said on Thursday, ending his 48-hours on the run.

The shooting occurred in the Neudorf neighborhood, where police conducted a search earlier today for Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old born in Strasbourg who police named as the suspected Christmas market gunman.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the dead man's identity hasn't been confirmed yet.

The gunman who opened fire Tuesday on an outdoor Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, Tuesday evening, shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is the greatest in Arabic)", reported the BBC.

Police said security forces raided the suspect's house but failed to find him.

Castaner said the suspect opened fire on police Thursday night when officials tried to arrest him.

Chekatt had yelled "Allahu Akbar" before opening fire at the Christmas market and police are treating it as a terrorist incident.

Last Saturday almost 90,000 police were mobilised across the country for the protests, with 8,000 officers and a dozen armoured vehicles deployed in the capital where scores of stores, museums and monuments were closed.

Chekatt's police file photo shows a bearded man of North African descent, with a prayer bruise on the centre of his forehead.

More than 700 French security forces had been searching for Chekatt since Tuesday's attack.

"My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people", British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

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France's security forces, already on high alert after a series of terror attacks since 2015, are particularly stretched at the moment due to anti-government protests that have swept the country.

Police distributed a photo of Chekatt, who was wounded in an exchange of fire with security forces, with the warning: "Individual risky, above all do not intervene".

Young men from the apartment block said they knew him as someone who seemed destabilised by his time in prison.

He has 27 convictions for crimes including robbery spanning France, Germany and Switzerland, and has spent considerable time in prison as a result.

Meanwhile, the Paris prosecutor's office said a fifth person had been arrested and placed in custody in connection with the investigation.

The European Parliament, which is in session in Strasbourg this week, was put into lockdown, Reuters said.

There are 13 injured with five in critical condition.

France has been hit by a wave of attacks from gunmen claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda or the Islamic State group since 2015, which have claimed the lives of 246 people before Tuesday's attack, according to an AFP toll.

But he called on the protesters to be "reasonable" after President Emmanuel Macron offered a range of financial relief last Monday, including a minimum wage boost and a tax cut for low-income pensioners.

In 2016, a militant responsible for an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin was shot and killed only three days later in Milan in northern Italy after travelling through the Netherlands and France.

  • Sonia Alvarado