Strasbourg terrorist killed 3 in Christmas market shooting to 'avenge his dead brothers in Syria' as cops fear fugitive maniac is planning a SUICIDE attack
A massive manhunt is ongoing in a bid to capture the 29-year-old terrorist, who evaded capture at least four times, amid fears he is planning a suicide mission to die as a martyr.
Three were killed in the attack in Strasbourg attack, including a Thai tourist, while six other victims were fighting for their lives, the French authorities have said.
Chekatt began his shooting and stabbing spree at just before 8pm on Tuesday and he was heard shouting “Allahu akbar”.
Despite being wounded in an exchange of gunfire with soldiers, he managed to hail a cab to take him back to area of Strasbourg where he was squatting.
During the ride, he told the driver he was motivated by a desire to “avenge his dead brothers” in Syria and also said he was a "practicing Muslim" and respectful of "prayer", Le Parisien reported.
According to a report on the France 2 channel, he told the driver, who had Islamic religious symbols in his car: "You know what I did, I killed people…for our brothers you died in Syria".
The driver immediately went to a local police station after dropping off Chekatt, said France 2.
Post mortem examinations and CCTV show that he targeted his victims' head or neck, sometimes at close range. At least four people were stabbed
Chakatt's police file photo shows a bearded man of North African descent, a prayer bruise blemishing the centre of his forehead.
Four members of the Strasbourg-born Chekatt’s family are now in custody, including his parents and two of his six brothers.
One of his brothers, Sami, 34, is known to have connections to the hardline Salafist movement and is also wanted by police, according to reports in Germany.
More than 700 police are involved in the second day of the manhunt, scouring Strasbourg, and the surrounding region.
Police have set up checkpoints on the German border.
Asked if police had been instructed to catch Chakatt dead or alive, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews: "It doesn't matter. "The best thing would be to find him as quickly as possible."
Unemployed Chekatt has 27 criminal convictions for theft and violence, and has spent time in French, German and Swiss jails.
The day of carnage began when police raided his flat at around 6am in Avenue de Comar, in the Neudorf district of Strasbourg, where Chekatt is known to have been squatting since July.
He was wanted in connection with a revenge attack in the nearby French town of Eckbolsheim on August 21.
Chekatt and three accomplices are said to have attempted to kill a man, leaving him with severe knife wounds.
He wasn’t at home but gendarmes seized a .22 calibre rifle, ammunition, knives and a grenade and also discovered burglary paraphernalia.
There was, however, nothing linking him to any terrorist organisation, such as a ISIS flag, though some material in Arabic has been taken away for analysis.
Later, Chekatt, armed with an automatic pistol and a stun grenade, crossed a bridge into central Strasbourg and began shooting.
He was shot and wounded in the arm by patrolling soldiers at around 8.15pm before he fled the scene in the taxi.
After arriving back in Neudorf where he exchanged gunfire with police motorcycists then disappeared and a manhunt in the area began.
Police went to an apartment block in Neudorf at around 8.45pm, where a resident said that Chekatt was in one of the properties, it was reported.
Checks at the nearby frontier between France and Germany were reinstated around 8.45pm, local media said.
The mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, reportedly said officers also had narrowly missed catching him last night at around 10pm though it was unclear exactly where that incident took place.
What we know so far:
- The gunman opened fire near Strasbourg's Christmas market killing three at about 8pm yesterday
- At least 13 more were injured – including a tourist shot in the stomach
- A terror investigation has been launched
- Police sources have named him as Strasbourg born 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt
- He was on an "S File security risk" – which means an individual considered to be a serious threat to national security.
- Reports say he was wounded in a shootout with armed cops and troops
- He is still on the run after hijacking a taxi at gunpoint just before midnight
- Grenades were reportedly found by cops at the home of the gunman on Tuesday morning after they raided his property over an unrelated armed robbery
- The European Parliament was placed on lockdown following the outrage
- The motive behind the gun attack was not immediately clear, said cops
- Police have detained five people but the gunman remains at large
The first victim has been named as Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, from Thailand.
Local media in the country reported he was on holiday with his wife Naina and another couple.
The German authorities said Chekatt may have fled across the nearby border to the country, where he served multiple prison sentences.
These included two years and two years and three months for aggravated theft after he broke into a dentist in Mainz and a pharmacy in Engen in southern Baden-Württemberg.
Chekatt admitted stealing money, stamps and gold teeth amounting to around £7500 in value.
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After finishing his sentence in 2017 he was deported back to France, where he had also been in prison.
In 2011 he was living in the Koenigshoffen district of Strasbourg and was sentenced to two years for theft and armed assault.
He also served time in a Swiss jail when, in 2013, he was sentenced to 18 months in Basel for several burglaries.
Chekatt was described by cops as an "S File security risk" – which means an individual considered to be a serious threat to national security.
Some 26,000 individuals suspected of posing a security risk to France are on the watch list, of whom about 10,000 are believed to have been radicalised online or abroad.
Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe with 300 wooden chalets set up in the city's historic centre from November 23 to Christmas Eve.
It was being held amid tight security this year, with unauthorised vehicles banned from surrounding streets during opening hours and checkpoints set up on bridges and access points to search pedestrians' bags.
One of the biggest Christmas trees in Europe is put up in Place Kleber, the largest square in the city, which was named after French general Jean-Baptiste Kleber who was born in Strasbourg in 1753.
France remains on high alert after suffering a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by ISIS militants in 2015 and 2016, which killed more than 200 people.
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