Date
22 April 2019
Police officers secure a street and surrounding areas after the shooting in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Police officers secure a street and surrounding areas after the shooting in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Gunman kills three near French Christmas market, flees

(Updated; last posted at 7.29 a.m.)

A gunman on a security watchlist killed three people and wounded a dozen others near the picturesque Christmas market in the historic French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday evening before fleeing.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the shooter had evaded a police dragnet and was on the run, raising concerns of a follow-up attack.

“The government has raised its security threat to the highest level and is bolstering border controls,” Castaner told a late-night news conference. “We will also reinforce security at all Christmas markets to prevent copycat attacks.” 

With France still on high alert after a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by Islamic State militants since early 2015, the counter-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation. 

Police identified the suspect as Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, who was known to the intelligence services as a potential security risk.

Castaner said the gunman exchanged shots with security forces twice as he escaped. His whereabouts now were unknown, and elite commandos and helicopters were involved in the manhunt.

The Paris prosecutor said the motive for the attack was not known. No one immediately claimed responsibility, but the US-based Site intelligence group, which monitors jihadist websites, said Islamic State supporters were celebrating. 

The attack began at about 8 p.m. (3 a.m. in New York) as stallholders prepared to close down and restaurants filled in the city, which sits across the Rhine River from Germany. Bystanders were swiftly ushered into nearby shops. 

The European Parliament, which is sitting in Strasbourg this week, was put into lockdown. 

On the opposite side of the Rhine river German police also tightened border controls, officials said. 

The Strasbourg prefecture said the gunman was on an intelligence services watchlist.

Sources familiar with the police operation said the suspect’s home had been raided earlier in the day in connection with a robbery during the summer, but he was not found there.

Five killed inside cathedral

In Brazil, a gunman opened fire inside the Catholic cathedral in the city of Campinas on Tuesday and fatally shot four people praying in the pews before killing himself after police wounded him, authorities said.

Police identified the shooter as Euler Fernando Gandolfo, 49, a systems analyst with no criminal record.

Gandolfo entered the cathedral and sat down among mainly elderly worshippers who remained to pray after midday mass.

Campinas police chief Jose Henrique Ventura said security cameras showed Gandolfo walk into the cathedral and sit down. A little later he started shooting at people.

Police in the plaza outside rushed in when they heard the shots, Ventura told a news conference. 

The gunman ran to the altar while firing at police and was hit in the side. He fell to ground and shot himself in the head, Ventura said. Gandolfo had two guns with 28 rounds left when he died.

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CG

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