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On the evening of 11 December 2018, a terrorist attack[1] occurred in Strasbourg, France, when a man attacked civilians in the city's busy Christkindelsmärik (Christmas market) with a revolver and a knife, killing five and wounding 11 before fleeing in a taxi.[2][3][4] Authorities called the shooting an act of terrorism.[5][6]

2018 Strasbourg attack
Le lutin de Noël (33497130176).jpg
Rue des Orfèvres where the attack started (pictured in December 2016)
Strasbourg is located in France
Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg (France)
LocationStrasbourg, France
Coordinates48°34′57″N 7°44′56″E / 48.582611°N 7.748889°E / 48.582611; 7.748889Coordinates: 48°34′57″N 7°44′56″E / 48.582611°N 7.748889°E / 48.582611; 7.748889
Date11 December 2018 (2018-12-11)
19:50
Attack type
Mass shooting
Weapons
Deaths5
Injuries
11 (4 severely)
PerpetratorsChérif Chekatt
(killed in subsequent shootout)

The attacker was 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, who had multiple criminal convictions and was on a security services watchlist as a suspected Islamist extremist. Chekatt was killed in a shootout with French police on the evening of 13 December after a manhunt involving 700 officers. He had pledged allegiance to the terrorist organisation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) judicial sources said.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

Christkindelsmärik is the Alsatian dialect name of the Christmas market in Strasbourg, held annually on the square in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral since 1570.[7][8] In 2000, a bombing plot was foiled by the French and German police when Al-Qaeda-linked operatives[9] had planned to detonate pressure cookers rigged as bombs in the crowd at the Christkindelsmärik. Since then, the market has been under reinforced security.[10] In 2016, several people were arrested in Marseille and Strasbourg for planning a terrorist attack; officials considered cancelling the Christmas market, but it was ultimately held as scheduled.[11]

On the morning of 11 December 2018, the police raided the home of Chérif Chekatt in Neudorf with the intention of arresting him on suspicion of attempted murder.[12] He was not at home, but they found a stun grenade,[13] a loaded .22 calibre rifle, four knives, and ammunition.[8][14][15]

AttackEdit

 
The closed Christmas market, two days after the attack

The attack started at approximately 19:50 local time (18:50 UTC)[16] near Place Kléber, where the Christkindelsmärik was being held.[15] Chérif Chekatt entered the area through Pont du Corbeau, then went through Rue des Orfèvres, opening fire and stabbing people in three different locations, first at Carré-d'Or (Rue des Orfèvres), then Rue des Grandes-Arcades.[3][17] The attack lasted ten minutes and took place in multiple streets, during which time Chekatt was heard shouting "Allahu akbar" as he attacked members of the crowd.[17] He then exchanged fire with soldiers of Opération Sentinelle, and then with the National Police;[3] a soldier was hit in the hand, and Chekatt was shot in the arm.[3][8][18] A 45-year-old Thai tourist[3] was hit in the head in front of a restaurant and died, despite a passersby attempting to resuscitate him; ambulances took over 45 minutes to arrive.[8][12]

Chekatt then escaped in the direction of Neudorf and Place de l'Étoile, taking a taxi cab; the driver was unharmed and reported to the police having taken an armed and wounded man.[3] His testimony allowed the police to identify the gunman, as the man bragged about killing people and having a grenade at home.[17][19] Two days after the attack, Chekatt's gun was revealed to be a Modèle 1892 revolver.[20][21][22]

Initially, 350 men of the security forces hunted for Chekatt, supported by air units.[3][23] Five hundred more men joined the next day, with a further 1,300 planned to join as reinforcements.[24] The incident led to the closure of locations around the city, including the European Parliament building.[25] Police used Twitter to relay information to the public.[25][26][27] The French government raised their security threat level to the highest possible as the search continued,[28] though Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet stated on Public Sénat that a state of emergency would not be declared for the incident.[3] Five thousand people were stranded in a sports facility used as temporary shelter, and the European Parliament was put on lockdown.[8] President Antonio Tajani tweeted that the European Parliament "will not be intimidated by terrorist or criminal attacks" and will "continue to work and react, strengthened by freedom and democracy against terrorist violence".[29] The incident was declared an act of terrorism by French authorities.[30]

VictimsEdit

Five people were killed;[31] two died at the scene and three others in hospital, while 11 others were injured, four critically.[4] The first of the dead to be identified was a 45-year-old male tourist from Thailand who was shot multiple times and died at the scene.[32] He was on holiday with his wife, who was also shot, but survived.[33] The others were a French 61-year-old former bank employee;[32] a 45-year-old local male mechanic and Muslim originally from Afghanistan who died two days later,[32][34] Antonio Megalizzi, a 29-year-old journalist from Italy covering the European Parliament plenary session, who died on 14 December;[32][35][36][37] and a 36-year-old Polish national who died on 16 December.[38][39][40]

AttackerEdit

Chérif Chekatt
Born(1989-02-04)4 February 1989[41]
Strasbourg, France
Died13 December 2018(2018-12-13) (aged 29)
Strasbourg, France
NationalityFrench

The perpetrator was Chérif Chekatt (French pronunciation: ​[ʃɛʁif ʃɛkat]),[15][42][43] a 29-year-old Strasbourg-born man of Algerian ancestry and French citizenship,[41][44] characterised as a "hardened criminal" who "converted to rigorous Islam".[45]

According to French authorities, Chekatt had been known to police since the age of 10 and he had his first criminal conviction by age 13.[46] He was known to security services for a total of 27 convictions in France, Germany, and Switzerland, arising from 67 recorded crimes in France alone.[47][48] His criminal activities started with petty crime, robbery and drug dealing.[49]

French police considered him a "gangster-jihadist", a term referring to people convicted of various crimes and "radicalised" in prison.[50] Chekatt was released from prison in France in 2015, then received a prison sentence for theft in Singen, Germany and was expelled to France after his release in 2017.[51]

Chekatt was tagged with a fiche "S" ("State Security" file), a type of extra-judiciary document that French State Security uses to keep track of suspect individuals while not necessarily keeping surveillance on them. He was listed for his recent "religious radicalisation"[8][28][52] and for "Islamic extremism".[53][54][55] Neighbours said that he seemed quite ordinary, comparing him to his more traditional brother.[56] His German lawyer told media that "he was just an ordinary criminal. It was no special case. We didn't notice any radicalisation."[57] Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez stated that Chekatt had become a "terrorism apologist" in prison, but had not been expected to perform an attack.[56] On the morning of the attack, local police had attempted to arrest him in relation to an attempted murder, but they could not locate him,[12] because Chekatt's father had warned him by SMS that the gendarmes were about to arrest him.[58]

Investigators subsequently concluded that Chekatt had made extensive preparations for the attack.[59] He told fellow inmates in 2015 that he would "commit a robbery before departing for Syria or die a martyr",[60][61] and became "very interested in seeking weapons, according to a friend of the jihadist, Audrey Mondjehi."[according to whom?][62]

Manhunt and Chekatt's deathEdit

 
Police mobilized in Neudorf hours after the attack

An investigation was initiated for "murder and acts of terrorism in relation to a criminal enterprise".[8] Four people close to Chekatt were detained for questioning after the shooting,[19] namely his father, who is tagged with a fiche "S" as well because of his religious fundamentalism,[63] his mother, and two of his brothers, both known for their local Salafist affiliation,[64] and a fifth person was taken into custody on 13 December.[65] A search warrant was issued in Algeria for a "very radicalised" third brother,[66] who has his own fiche "S" record because of radicalisation and "contacts with Islamist circles in Strasbourg".[67]

Chekatt was still at large after the attack, and an international manhunt began. There were some initial fears that he had escaped to Germany across the Rhine.[68] Immediate efforts for the manhunt included closing the city's A35 autoroute that leads to Switzerland and Germany, a coordinated security reinforcement between Strasbourg and German state police, and suspending the tramway between the city and Kehl in Germany.[8] Ultimately, more than 700 officers were involved in the manhunt.[69] On 12 December at 19:20 (18:20 UTC), the French National Police released a photograph of Chekatt and asked for any witnesses to come forward.[24][70][71]

On the evening of 13 December, police found Chekatt in Strasbourg between Neudorf and the Stade de la Meinau. He fired on officers when they tried to question him and they returned fire, killing him.[65][72][73]

Soon after his death, the Islamic State claimed him as one of their "soldiers" through their propaganda outlet, Amaq.[74][75] Christophe Castaner, France's interior minister, dismissed the claim as "completely opportunistic".[76] In an interview for France 2 Chekatt's father said his son had been an Islamic State supporter.[77] Nine days after Chekatt's death, a USB key containing a video of him pledging allegiance to the Islamic State was found among his belongings judicial sources said.[78][79]

ReactionsEdit

 
Memorial on Rue des Orfèvres on 13 December

The leader of the Rassemblement National (RN) party, Marine Le Pen, described the attack as an "Islamist massacre".[80] Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the conservative party Les Républicains, called for a strengthening of the laws.[80]

Border controls were increased due to Strasbourg's proximity to Germany.[81] The Christmas market was closed on the day after the attack.[12]

Conspiracy theoriesEdit

Conspiracy theorists and some members of the yellow vests movement, which was ongoing at the time of the attack, commented on social media that the shooting was a false flag conspiracy by the French president, to distract attention from the movement's protests. This prompted angry denials from cabinet ministers[who?], who called the claims "disgusting".[82][83][84]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ "Strasbourg shooting: gunman was listed as potential terror threat". The Guardian. 12 December 2018. Archived from the original on 12 December 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
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  5. ^ Peltier, Elian; Breeden, Aurelien (12 December 2018). "France Declares Strasbourg Shooting to Be an Act of Terrorism". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 December 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
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