Strasbourg attack victims honoured as fifth person dies

People light up candles and deposit flowers during a gathering around a makeshift memorial at Place Kleber, in Strasbourg, on Dec 16, 2018, to pay a tribute to the victims of Strasbourg's attack.
People light up candles and deposit flowers during a gathering around a makeshift memorial at Place Kleber, in Strasbourg, on Dec 16, 2018, to pay a tribute to the victims of Strasbourg's attack. PHOTO: AFP

STRASBOURG (AFP) – More than 1,000 people gathered in Strasbourg on Sunday (Dec 16) to honour the victims of an attack on the city’s popular Christmas market that left five dead.

People, many in tears, gathered around a makeshift shrine of flowers and candles at the foot of the enormous Christmas tree at the Kleber Square in the city centre.

“We wanted to be here to show that we are not giving up and that we continue to live,” Jonathan, 25, told AFP in the snow-covered square.

The ceremony, organised by local rights associations with the approval of the city authorities, included music, singing and several readings.

The traditional minute of silence was replaced by a minute of noise, during which people shouted and applauded to express their solidarity with the victims.

The crowd then spontaneously burst into a rendition of the Marseillaise, France’s national anthem.

“Fanaticism has struck right at the heart of Strasbourg, our open city, capital of human rights,” said Ms Christine Panzer, co-organiser of the gathering. “We reject all hate speech in the fight against dark forces.” 

The authorities confirmed on Sunday evening that a fifth victim, a 36-year-old Polish national living in Strasbourg, had died from wounds sustained during last Tuesday’s bloodbath carried out by Cherif Chekatt.

Chekatt – who was on a French list of possible extremist security risks – was shot dead by police last Thursday after a manhunt that involved more than 700 members of the security forces.

The 29-year-old native of the city attacked Strasbourg’s Christmas market last Tuesday armed with a gun and a knife.

France’s interior minister last Friday dismissed a claim by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that it was responsible for the attack.

Police have been focusing their investigation on whether Chekatt had any help in carrying out his attack or during the two days he was on the run.

Earlier on Sunday, police in the eastern French city, which is home to the European Parliament, released two of Chekatt’s close associates.

With the release last Saturday of his parents and two of his brothers, that leaves only one person of the seven originally detained still in custody.