France hunts gunman behind Strasbourg Christmas market shooting

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French police have released an image of Cherif Chekatt, the suspected gunman who opened fire in the centre of Strasbourg on Tuesday night leaving at least two dead and several critically injured.

Rather than coordinated attacks, their main concern is attacks by "lone wolves" - self-radicalised individuals acting without links to terror groups such as Islamic State.

Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor, who handles terrorism investigations nationwide, said at a news conference in Strasbourg on Wednesday that witnesses had heard the attacker yell "Allahu akbar", or "God is great" in Arabic, and that the targets and the suspect's profile justified the opening of a terrorism investigation.

The 29-year-old has been convicted 27 times for several offenses committed in France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Four people connected to him were detained in Strasbourg overnight, Heitz added.

Responding to the tragedy, believed to be a terrorist attack, on its Facebook, the embassy said it "condemned the gunman who claimed the lives of innocent people".

Confirming that three people had died, Mr Castaner said that border controls had been strengthened and security at all Christmas markets would be stepped up, with 350 security agents hunting for the gunman.

"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".

As he escaped, he saw three wounded people on the ground just a few metres from the giant illuminated Christmas tree erected in the centre of town for the market. "I heard shooting and then there was pandemonium", one witness, who gave his name as Fatih, told AFP.

A local shopkeeper told BFM TV that the shooting lasted for about 10 minutes. "Soldiers and police have cordoned off the area".

The shooting spree comes as French leader Emmanuel Macron faces the biggest crisis of his presidency after three weeks of anti-government demonstrations sparked by fuel tax rises.

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The suspect behind a mass shooting in Strasbourg, France, remains at large as authorities imposed a high level of security and issued a warning of the threat of further violence.

The prosecutor's office said the investigation was being conducted on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise charges, suggesting officials do not exclude links between the shooter and an extremist cell. They found explosive materials during a search, he said.

One of those killed was named as Thai national Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, who had been on holiday in France with his wife.

Theresa May said she was "shocked and saddened" by the attack and that her thoughts are "with all those affected and with the French people".

France has been targeted by a series of attacks by Islamist gunmen since 2015, and the Strasbourg market was long considered a target.

Armed police have been spotted at the scene.

Authorities said the motive for the attack was not known, but the US -based Site intelligence group, which monitors jihadist websites, said Islamic State supporters were celebrating.

The attack comes nearly exactly two years after the Berlin Christmas attack that saw failed Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri ram a truck through the city's market killing a dozen people and injuring dozens more.

Italian daily La Repubblica reports that he travelled Strasbourg on Sunday to follow the European Parliamentary session.

Another 12 people were wounded in the attack, six of whom were seriously injured.

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