Strasbourg attack

Suspect killed in shootout with cops

Police officers patrolling a Christmas market in Nice on Thursday. Security at other Christmas markets in France were tightened after Tuesday's attack. Cherif Chekatt had a long criminal record, with convictions, mostly for robberies and assaults.
Police officers patrolling a Christmas market in Nice on Thursday. Security at other Christmas markets in France were tightened after Tuesday's attack.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Police officers patrolling a Christmas market in Nice on Thursday. Security at other Christmas markets in France were tightened after Tuesday's attack. Cherif Chekatt had a long criminal record, with convictions, mostly for robberies and assaults.
Cherif Chekatt had a long criminal record, with convictions, mostly for robberies and assaults.PHOTO: NYT

Police used surveillance and other info to track him down

PARIS • French police confronted and fatally shot the man believed to be responsible for killing three people and wounding many more at a Christmas market in Strasbourg this week, bringing a tense, two-day manhunt to an end.

The attack traumatised Strasbourg and reminded France of its continued vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

The hunt for suspect Cherif Chekatt, 29, consumed the work of more than 700 police officers and special investigators searching in and around Strasbourg.

The chase ended on Thursday night, when three police officers opened fire on Chekatt, who shot at them as they pursued him in the residential Neudorf neighbourhood of Strasbourg, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said at a news conference in the city. Police used surveillance and other information to track down Chekatt, he said.

The officers "saw an individual walking on the public street who corresponded to the description" of Chekatt, Mr Castaner said, adding that when the man turned around and fired on them, "they returned fire and neutralised the assailant".

On Tuesday night, as he fled the Christmas market, Chekatt managed to elude the police and soldiers, even though he was injured in at least one encounter with them. The attack prompted the authorities to place France on its highest level of alert.

French officials also moved quickly to tighten security at other Christmas markets, which are common throughout Europe.

French security officials had determined that Chekatt, whom witnesses described as saying "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great", in the course of the Christmas market attack, had terrorist motivations.

 
 

It was unclear how and when exactly he adopted extremist beliefs, but the French authorities said they first detected them during his time in prison. He had a long criminal record, with 27 convictions, mostly for robberies and assaults, in France, Germany and Switzerland.

Chekatt was one of about 20,000 people flagged by the French security services for possible radicalisation, and was also tagged in a database that is known in France as an "S file", indicating that he was a potential security risk. Such people are tracked by the authorities, but it is not possible to keep all of them under constant surveillance.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed on its official news agency site Amaq that the attacker was "a soldier of the Islamic State", but used language that suggested the attack was likely inspired by the group's ideology.

Among the victims on Tuesday night was a Frenchman who had been out to dinner with his wife in Strasbourg's cobblestone-paved historic centre, according to news media reports and television interviews with a waiter at the restaurant where they had been eating.

A Thai tourist was also killed and his wife was wounded, said the Foreign Ministry of Thailand. An Afghan, Mr Kamal Naghchband, 44, who had emigrated to France with his wife and three children to escape the Taleban, died on Thursday after being in a coma for two days. A fourth person was still alive on Thursday, but described by health officials as brain dead.

NYTIMES

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Suspect killed in shootout with cops'. Print Edition | Subscribe