Updated: 12/13/2018 1:54:20 AM
The attacker is still at large and a manhunt is under way for the gunman, who is believed to be a 29-year-old local man who was already known to security services. A large police and gendarmerie operation, with military enforcements, is searching the city and surrounding areas. Roland Ries, the mayor of Strasbourg, said the Christmas market will be closed on Wednesday, and all cultural performances and events have also been cancelled. Flags will be lowered to half-mast.
French interior minister Christophe Castaner said protests would be banned in Strasbourg on Wednesday in order for police to be “mobilised completely”. The FCO is still advising travellers to exercise caution and follow the advice of the French authorities at all times. Follow the mayor on Twitter to keep up to date: @Roland_Ries.
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2018
France has upgraded its security threat level as hundreds of police hunted a gunman who shot three people dead and injured 12 others in a terror attack on Strasbourg’s celebrated Christmas market on Tuesday evening.
Six hours after the gunman disappeared after firing at passers-by in the busy city center, the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said the government had raised the risk level to the highest category.
The move would strengthen border controls and bolster protection of Christmas markets and other events.
In a statement, Castaner said the gunman had opened fire in three different places in the city before engaging in firefights with patrolling soldiers. “He fought twice with our security forces,” Castaner said.
French media reported the man, who was injured in one of the exchanges, then jumped in a taxi and disappeared.
Police immediately cut off major roads in and out of the city and launched a massive operation involving 350 police gendarmes and soldiers, as well as helicopters, to find him. French security services said they had identified the gunman as a 29-year-old born in Strasbourg, known to police and also on the “Fiche S” list of potential security threats.
French media reported that gendarmes had attempted to arrest the man for a separate crime at his home in the Neudorf district of south-east Strasbourg earlier on Tuesday. The suspect was not home, but officers reportedly found grenades in his apartment.
Shortly before 8 pm local time, the man, armed with an automatic rifle, walked over one of the city’s many bridges around the Grand Île toward the Christmas market, which attracts millions of visitors every year. Witnesses said the man fired a first volley of rounds and then walked down the street before opening fire again.
One of the dead was said to be a Thai tourist who was shot in the head outside a restaurant. Staff and diners tried to save him but were unsuccessful. Six of the injured were reported to be in a critical condition.
The anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office declared the incident to be an act of terrorism and announced an inquiry had been opened into “murder and attempted murder in relation to a criminal enterprise”.
The gunman reportedly shot at soldiers patrolling as part of the nationwide Operation Sentinelle, the French military operation introduced in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in and around Paris in January 2015, and was injured when they fired back.
Police asked residents in the center of Strasbourg to stay at home bars and restaurants were ordered to close and not let customers leave. Hours after the shootings, thousands of people remained unable to leave city center restaurants, bars, libraries, and other public buildings following police orders for everyone to stay off the streets. About 5,000 people were stuck inside the local sports stadium. The BBC reported the order was lifted in the early hours of Wednesday.
The European parliament, which is sitting in Strasbourg, was put on lock-down, and the parliament’s safety awareness division sent a message to MEPs advising those dining in the city center to “please stay inside and don’t go out”.
The local prefecture tweeted that people should avoid the area near the city’s police headquarters and that all access to the A35 motorway bisecting the city was blocked.
Police in Germany said they were strengthening controls at the Franco-German border near Strasbourg. The police force of Baden-Württemberg, a state in south-west Germany bordering Strasbourg, tweeted they were taking the extra measures at the border because of the shooting. The transnational tramway between France and Germany was suspended.
In the early hours of Wednesday, local prefect Roland Ries announced the Christmas market would be closed on Wednesday and all local cultural events cancelled.
Strasbourg shooting Facts
Affected Area: 1 km.
Alert Level: Red
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