French want Christmas market attacker dead or alive
The French government spokesman says security forces are trying to catch the suspected shooter dead or alive, two days after an attack near Strasbourg’s Christmas market. The attack left three people dead and 13 others wounded, including five who were still in serious condition on Thursday.
Benjamin Griveaux said on CNews television that more than 700 officers are involved in the manhunt for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt. Police have distributed a photo of the wounded fugitive.
While national officials have been reluctant to confirm a motive for the attack, Strasbourg’s Mayor Roland Hies was unambiguous on Wednesday, saying what happened at his city’s famous Christmas market, “was indisputably a terrorist attack.”
Paris prosecutor Remi Heitz said witnesses told police that the gunman yelled “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” during the attack.
The government raised the terror alert level nationwide and deployed 1,800 additional soldiers across France to help patrol streets and secure crowded events.
An appeal to the “yellow vest” protesters to stay home
Griveaux also called on the “yellow vest” protesters not to take to the streets, as some members of the movement have planned a fifth round of demonstrations on Saturday across France to demand tax relief.
“It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again,” he said, noting that France’s “security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks.”
Griveaux added, however, that “it’s not up to us to say if the movement should be called off or not.”
President Emmanuel Macron attempted to quell the unrest after four Saturdays in a row which saw violent rioting in Paris and other cities, as extremists joined demonstrations against his leadership.
Macron has called off planned fuel tax hikes and offered increases to the minimum wage and pension payments for some of France’s most cash-strapped retirees.
But his concessions seemed inadequate to quash the anger in the streets, and as of earlier this week, the yellow vest movement was still planning to stage new demonstrations on Saturday.
The 29-year-old man sought by police over a shooting in Strasbourg lived in a small apartment in a ramshackle housing bloc and has convictions in France and several European countries after a life of crime, officials say.
What we know about suspect Cherif Chekatt
Chekatt, the subject of the cross-border manhunt, was a native of Strasbourg. He lived in the Poteries area, a western suburb of the city consisting largely of apartment buildings.
“It’s a building for desperate people. No one wants to live there,” Bemba N’diaye, another local resident, told French news agency AFP of the concrete building Chekatt called home. “People there are very isolated.”
Neighbors told AFP that Chekatt was known as a petty criminal in the area, but that he largely kept to himself.
“His family has lived around here for a while, but he lived on his own nearby,” a young man named Zach told AFP. “He was discreet, not a thug.”
Chekatt has been convicted of crimes ranging from robbery and assault to lesser charges, more than two dozen times, mostly in his native France but also in neighboring Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
French officials have confirmed that he was flagged for extremism after previous prison stays, but he has never been convicted of a terrorism offense.