11 July 2024

French police on Thursday shot dead a gunman who had been on the run since killing three people, including a Thai tourist, at Strasbourg’s popular Christmas market.

More than 700 French security forces had been hunting for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt since the bloodshed on Tuesday night.

He was believed to have been injured after exchanging fire with soldiers during the attack, but managed to escape and had not been seen since getting out of a taxi in the Neudorf area of the northern French city.

Minutes before he was shot dead on Thursday, a helicopter with powerful searchlight flew over Neudorf.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters police swooped after the suspect was spotted in the street.

Officers tried to arrest him, but he shot at police. “They immediately returned fire and neutralised the assailant,” Castaner said.

Dozens of police vehicles converged on the area where police were applauded after the shooting. “Bravo!” some shouted as people gathered at the police cordon, a source said.

Police in several other countries earlier joined the manhunt for Chekatt, a Strasbourg native and career criminal with at least 27 convictions in four European states.

Authorities published Chekatt’s picture late Wednesday with police describing him as dangerous and urging people not to approach him.

A fifth person was detained by police for questioning on Thursday, in addition to the suspect’s parents and two brothers who have been in custody since Wednesday.

The Strasbourg Christmas market is due to reopen on Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed “the solidarity of the whole country” towards the victims as he arrived for a European summit in Brussels on Thursday.

“It is not only France that has been hit… but a great European city as well,” he added, referring to the seat of the European parliament in the eastern French city that lies on the border with Germany.

– Plea to ‘yellow vests’ –

As police were hunting Chekatt Thursday, the French government urged “yellow vest” protesters not to hold another round of demonstrations this weekend, given the strain on the country’s security forces.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux called on the anti-government protesters to be “reasonable” and not protest again Saturday, after nearly four weeks of often violent demonstrations which has led the government to offer a range of financial relief to low earners.

“Our security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks,” Griveaux told CNews television.

“It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again,” he added.

The “yellow vest” protesters, known for their fluorescent high-visibility jackets, had called for a fifth round of protests this Saturday.