Strasbourg shooting: At least four dead, several injured in attack at Christmas market
A suspected terrorist was on the run last night after killing at least four people and injuring a dozen more in the eastern French city of Strasbourg near its Christmas market.
Shots were reportedly exchanged in a street of the southern district of Neudorf after a manhunt involving police and soldiers but there was no confirmation he had been localised.
French authorities are treating the shooting as a terrorist act after identifying the gunman, named Cherif C, a radicalised 29-year old from the city on a “S” security and terror watch list, thanks to CCTV. Anti-terrorist prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Questions were being raised last night over how the assailant had managed to evade capture yesterday morning. Police were due to arrest him over a botched armed robbery but he had escaped and grenades were found at his home.
Hours later, shortly before 8pm, the assailant went on the rampage in Strasbourg’s city centre in the bustling rue des Ofrèvres armed with an automatic pistol and knife.
Police reported the attacker was shot and wounded by patrolling soliders before he fled the scene. According to France Info, the wounded suspect took a taxi driver hostage to escape soldiers. The driver reportedly escaped unharmed.
According to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, the suspect has an existing criminal record.
Theresa May said she was “shocked and saddened” by the “terrible” attack in Strasbourg. She tweeted: “My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people.”
Terrified residents and tourists sought cover in bars and restaurants and footage on social media showed at least one victim lying on the ground as others screamed.
At least two of the wounded last night were said to be in a critical condition. The gunman was wounded by soldiers on patrol as part of France’s Sentinelle anti-terror operation but managed to flee, said police. One of the soldiers was wounded in the hand in the exchange.
A local man named Philippe told Europe 1 radio: “I saw a person on the ground, unconscious and bleeding. There was another person on the ground just behind, and one or two more a bit further along the street.”
One eyewitness who tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate a Thai tourist shot by the gunman, said: “I though it was just firecrackers but it turned out to be actual gunshots.
“I saw one person lying there a tourist from Thailand accompanied by his wife or girlfriend was unhurt. We tried resuscitation efforts for 45 minutes. We dragged him into a restaurant close by and we tried our best to bring him back to life with CPR but it seemed that that was futile.”
The European Parliament was in lockdown, with MEPs, staff and journalists unable to leave the building, a few kilometres from the square.
Caught in drama was Sajjad Karim, the British MEP who survived the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which 174 died by hiding in the basement. He said: “I am in the EP completely safe and unable to leave at present. It’s an unfolding situation: and my thoughts are with the victims.”
Richard Corbett, a Labour MEP, tweeted that he was in a restaurant in the centre of Strasbourg, adding: “Restaurant locked and not letting anyone in or out.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the Strasbourg shooting which I condemn with great firmness. Strasbourg is par excellence a town that symbolises peace and European democracy.”
Across the city centre people were ordered to stay put, with some 5000 spectators still being held at a basketball game at 1am local time .
French MPs at the National Assembly expressed their solidarity and the Senate held a minute’s silence. President Emmanuel Macron was due to attend a government crisis committee overnight.
Francois de Rugy, the French ecology minister, tweeted: “Solidarity and support for the people of Strasbourg. Our support too for the security forces. We are united and determined to protect the French people.”
But some already started criticising President Emmanuel Macron’s security credentials.
“How many terror attacks by those on “S” watchlist do we have to suffer before adapting our law to the fight against terrorism. What are we waiting for to finally wage war to eradicate Islamic fundamentalism that has declared war on us?”, asked Laurent Wauquiez, the Right-wing Republicans party leader.
Far-Right leader Marine Le Pen said: “A radical change is must happen as terrorism policy is clearly failing.”
France remains on high alert after a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by Islamic State militants since early 2015, in which about 240 people have been killed.
Fears of terror strikes had waned in recent months. Instead, the country has been more concerned about an ongoing nationwide “yellow vest” revolt as protesters call for lower taxes and higher wages.
However, four “radicalised” men were arrested at the start of the revolt in early November and charged with plotting to carry out a terror attack during the first “yellow vest” protest. A hunting rifle was found and police said there was evidence they were trying to acquire a Kalashnikov.
Christmas markets have been considered a terror target ever since the foiled terror attack in December 2000. The al-Qaeda plot, in which a truck bomb was due to be detonated beneath the steps of Strasbourg cathedral, next to the market, has been described as blueprint for would-be attackers. The plot failed when British intelligence tipped off the French and German authorities after intercepting a call to the suspected paymaster in London.
Raids in France, Germany and Britain followed and the ring leaders were arrested in Frankfurt, where bomb making materials were found.
Security was stepped up at Christmas markets across Europe two years ago when a stolen lorry was driven into pedestrians in Berlin, killing 11 pedestrians and injuring 56.
Some two million people attend the Strasbourg Christmas market every year.
Roland Ries, the mayor of Strasbourg, said the Christmas market will be closed tomorrow and flags will be lowered to half-mast.
He tweeted: “A book of condolences will be opened at the Town Hall from today.
“I want to thank the people of Strasbourg and visitors to the city for their patience and understanding.
“A discussion is under way with the education authorities about possible closures to schools on Wednesday.”
May ‘shocked’ by Strasbourg shootings
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is “shocked and saddened” by the “terrible” attack in Strasbourg.
Mrs May tweeted: “My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people.”
Shocked and saddened by the terrible attack in Strasbourg. My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people.
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) December 11, 2018
More from the ground in Strasbourg
A student, Glenn Essoly, says she has sought refuge with other people in a library. “We don’t know how long we’ll have to stay here. We’re hoping it won’t be all night. We really hope it will be over soon but we don’t have any information.”
A waiter from a restaurant near the scene of the shooting described on BFM TV how staff and customers tried to save a man who stepped outside and was shot in the head. “We used napkins to try to stem the blood,” he said. He said the man had died.
Reports of a second suspect
According to Strasbourg town hall, another operation is taking place at Place Broglie. “There is a strong suspicion that a second person” may be implicated in the shooting, police sources told Le Figaro.
Attacker’s date of birth released
French media have given the attacker’s date of birth – 4 February 1989 – but officials have yet to release a name.
Border checks strengthened
With the attacker still on the run, the French and German authorities have strengthened checks on the border, which is near Strasbourg.
Witnesses describe seeing multiple victims
Alain Moyemont, a witness, told BFM TV: “I saw people in the crowd running in panic after the shooting started. At least two people were on the ground.”
Philippe, a local resident, told Europe 1 radio: “I saw a person on the ground, unconscious and bleeding. There was another person on the ground just behind, and one or two more a bit further along the street.”
‘European Parliament will not be intimidated’
President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani tweeted a message of condolence and defiance against the attacker.
I express all my sorrow for the victims of the Strasbourg attacks. This Parliament will not be intimidated by terrorist or criminal attacks. Let us move on. We will continue to work and react strengthened by freedom and democracy against terrorist violence.
— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) December 11, 2018
Grenade found at attacker’s home
Police raided the attacker’s home this morning in connection with another case, and found at least one grenade, BFM TV reports
French terror attacks
The Strasbourg attack is the latest in a string of recent terror attacks in France.
In August 2017, a BMW 2-Series Active Tourer was driven into a group of soldiers in a suburb of Paris. Six people were injured, three seriously. The driver was then stopped on the A16 motorway, being shot several times in the process.
That June, a Renault Megane containing explosives and weapons was driven into a Gendarmerie vehicle on the Champs-Élysées in Paris . Only the attacker was killed in what is understood to be a ‘botched’ suicide attack.
In July 2016, a lorry was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day near the seafront in Nice killing. 87 people, including the attacker, and injuring a further 458.
Shooter born in Strasbourg
The Strasbourg attacker is said to be aged 29 and Strasbourg-born, but now name has been disclosed.
According to BFM TV, the attacker is on the “S” file terror watch list.
The man was identified thanks to security footage, according to Le Parisien.
Soldiers wounded attacker
The attacker was wounded by soldiers before fleeing, police say.
The soldiers who wounded the attacker were on patrol in Strasbourg as part of the “Sentinel” anti-terrorism operation.
Armed soldiers and police have been patrolling the streets of French cities since the 2015 Paris attacks.
Shooting being treated as terror attack
Authorities say they are treating the attack as a terrorist act. Anti-terrorist prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Death toll rises to two
Two people are now reported dead and 11 injured, with at least two in critical condition after the attack.
Emergency phone line
The French authorities have set up an emergency line for people with relatives or friends who may have been caught up in the attack . It is: 00-33- (0)811 000 667.
The attacker, who is “on the run”, has been identified, the Prefecture says, but it has not made the name public.
Police continue to hunt for the attacker.
Macron informed on Strasbourg latest
The office of Emmanuel Macron says the President is being kept informed of unfolding events in Strasbourg as the Interior Minister travels to the scene.
Attacker on the run
The regional state prefecture has confirmed that an attacker is “on the run”.
Fire brigade increases number of injured
The local fire brigade have reported one person dead and nine injured.
The motive for the shooting and the identities of the attackers are still unknown.
Residents told to stay inside
The French Interior Minister is advising residents of the eastern city to stay indoors as more details begin to emerge on the shooting incident.
European Parliament on lockdown
A contact at the European Parliament in Strasbourg has told the Telegraph that all EU staff and MEPs have been locked inside the building.
“We ask you to stay calm and stay safe within EP premises,” read a message to staff.