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Suspect in Strasbourg Christmas market attack has been killed: Police

Key Points
  • Cherif Chekatt was killed in the Neudorf/Meinau area of the city after a police operation was launched around 9 pm local time on Thursday.
  • On Tuesday, the gunman attacked the picturesque Christmas market in the historic city of Strasbourg just as it was shutting down.
  • Three people died in the Christmas market attack.
French special police forces secure an area during a police operation in the Meinau district after the deadly shooting in Strasbourg, France, December 13, 2018. 
Christian Hartmann | Reuters

The suspected gunman, who killed three people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, has been killed, two police sources said on Thursday, ending his 48-hours on the run.

Cherif Chekatt was killed in the Neudorf/Meinau area of the city after a police operation was launched around 9 p.m. local time on Thursday about 2 kilometers from where he launched his attack on Tuesday.

Chekatt was killed after firing on police officers, who returned fire, one of the sources said.

Reuters reporters near the scene heard three to four gunshots after a huge police operation with armed forces from the BRI and RAID units. A police helicopter had been circling overhead.

The death toll from Tuesday's attack rose to three as police on Thursday combed the city in the east of France for a second day and manned checkpoints on the German border.

Police issued a wanted poster in multiple languages for Chekatt, who was the main suspect in the attack and who had been on a watchlist as a potential security threat.

French shooting suspect Strasbourg France 181213


Authorities say the 29-year-old was known to have developed radical religious views while in jail.

Earlier in the day armed and masked police swooped on Strasbourg neighborhoods with elite RAID officers fanning out across three locations in late afternoon, including the area where Chekatt was last seen.

The Paris prosecutor's office said Chekatt's parents and two brothers were being held in custody.

Two of his sisters in Paris were also questioned on Thursday and one of their homes was searched, a judicial source said.

Christmas market attack

On Tuesday evening, the gunman attacked the picturesque Christmas market in the historic city in eastern France, near the German border, just as it was shutting down.

He engaged in two gunfights with security forces as he evaded a police dragnet and bragged about his acts to the driver of a taxi that he commandeered, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said.

Witnesses told investigators the assailant cried out "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) as he launched his attack on the market, Heitz said.

Heitz also suggested the suspect may have chosen his target for its religious symbolism.

"Considering the target, his way of operating, his profile and the testimonies of those who heard him yell 'Allahu Akbar', the anti-terrorist police has been called into action," Heitz told a news conference.

French and German security officials painted a portrait of Chekatt as a serial law-breaker who had racked up more than two dozen convictions in France, Germany and Switzerland, and served time in prison.

One German security source said the suspect was jailed in southern Germany from August 2016 to February 2017 for aggravated theft but was released before the end of his 27-month sentence so that he could be deported to France.

"He was banned from re-entering Germany at the same time," a security source in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said. "We don't have any knowledge of any kind of radicalization."