Manhunt for Strasbourg gunman who killed three before fleeing in hijacked taxi

A huge manhunt is under way for an extremist gunman who killed three people and injured 13 more near a Christmas market in Strasbourg.

The suspect, identified as Cherif Chekatt, evaded capture from a police dragnet and is still on the run, prompting fears of a follow-up attack.

The 29-year-old suspect was shot and injured by soldiers guarding the Christmas market, but escaped in a hijacked taxi, according to reports in France.

A terror probe has been launched and 350 security officers are hunting for the Strasbourg-born suspect, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

Chekatt is known to security services, Castaner confirmed.

He is said to be on a watch list of around 26,000 people, of whom 10,000 are believed to have been radicalised.

He has served prison sentences in France and Germany for common law offences and fought twice with security forces.

In the wake of the attack, which has also left 13 injured, of which eight are in a serious condition, the French government has increased its security level Vigipirate to its highest level.

Castaner said: "Three hundred and fifty police and gendarmes are currently on the ground to apprehend the suspect, supported by two helicopters, the RAID (French anti-terror police), the BRI (anti-gang brigade) and the Sentinel force.

"The government has decided to move the security level to "Emergency Attack" with stricter controls at the borders, and the implementation of reinforced controls on all the Christmas markets that are taking place in France to avoid the risk of copycat attacks."

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Witnesses have said online there are other people injured on the floor.

A BBC reporter says on Twitter a French journalist "saw soldiers shoot a man dead, who was reportedly targeting them."

Peter Fritz, a witness, said he found a person who had been shot, lying on a bridge. He told the BBC he tried to resuscitate him but the man died.

And Doris Manou told the BBC: "Earlier on I was walking around the Christmas market in central Strasbourg and I passed Place Kleber where the shooting took place just minutes before it happened.

"Then I continued walking on Rue du Dome when I saw the army with a group of 10-12 soldiers walking towards me with their guns pointed to the street and around them everyone was running from all directions.

"The soldiers were very focused on their mission, they were running."

Stephane Morisse, from the FGP Police union, said authorities went to the suspect’s Strasbourg home earlier on Tuesday to arrest him, but he was not there. Grenades were found at the property.

Chekatt entered central Strasbourg via the Corbeau bridge to the south of the city centre, before heading to Rue des Orfevres, a popular shopping street close to the cathedral, where he opened fire.

There were unconfirmed reports of people being injured in several streets south of Place Kleber in central Strasbourg.

It is thought he may then have headed south of the city centre to the Neudorf or Place de l’Etoile area, where people were advised to stay indoors.

It is understood the Foreign Office has not yet received any reports of British nationals caught up in the shooting.

The mayor of Strasbourg Roland Ries said the Christmas market will be closed Wednesday 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."

President Emmanuel Macron, who attended a Interdepartmental Crisis Centre meeting, left without speaking to reporters but later tweeted the "solidarity of the entire nation" is with Strasbourg, the victims and their families".

Theresa May said she was "shocked and saddened by the terrible attack."

British MEP Richard Corbett has tweeted: "Am in restaurant in centre of Strasbourg where shots fired with unconfirmed reports of 3 dead.

"Restaurant locked and not letting anyone in or out."

It’s happened as the European Parliament are in the city for a crunch meeting.

MEP Martina Anderson, the Irish politician, has tweeted from the scene.

She said: "No confirmed reports but footage out of people on the ground injuries if not worse.

"My thoughts & prayers with all who are injured."

Malta MEP Roberta Metsola said she was in lockdown inside the European Parliament building.

Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, wrote on Twitter: "The police informed me tonight of a shooting in Strasbourg with possibly one victim and several wounded.

"The perpetrator is still on the run.

"This is a serious incident and I advise all staff and visitors to stay at home or indoors for the moment."

Antonio Tajani, President of the European Paraliament, tweeted: "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."

France has been hit by several extremist attacks in recent years, including the 2015 Paris shootings which left 130 people dead and wounded hundreds more.

In 2016 a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds in Nice, killing 86 people and leaving hundreds injured.

Twelve people were killed and 48 were injured when a man drove a truck into crowds at a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016.

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