Hunt for Stras­bourg killer spreads to Ger­many

Sus­pect has 27 con­vic­tions in 3 coun­tries

Calgary Herald - - WORLD - HENRY SA­MUEL

• The hunt for a sus­pected ter­ror­ist who killed two in Stras­bourg, France, and left a third vic­tim with brain dam­age, spread to Ger­many Wednes­day as au­thor­i­ties con­firmed he had shouted “Al­lahu ak­bar” be­fore open­ing fire.

An­other 12 peo­ple were in­jured, with at least two in crit­i­cal con­di­tion from head in­juries. The Stras­bourg-born sus­pect was named as 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, who is be­lieved to have gone on a killing spree with a gun and long knife near the city’s famed Christ­mas mar­ket, vis­ited by 2 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery year.

Speak­ing af­ter the at­tack, French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said: “The ter­ror­ist threat is still at the heart of the life of our na­tion.” As po­lice launched a call for wit­nesses and 720 of­fi­cers hunted for the sus­pect, ques­tions were raised last night as to why he was con­sid­ered a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous rad­i­cal in France but noth­ing more than a com­mon crim­i­nal in Ger­many.

Remy Heitz, the Paris pros­e­cu­tor, said the sus­pect had 27 pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions in France, Ger­many and Switzer­land for theft and armed rob­bery. He was first flagged to au­thor­i­ties at the age of 10. He was added to a watch list while in prison in France in 2015 for “prac­tis­ing a rad­i­cal form of re­li­gion.”

Since then, France’s do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence agency, the DGSI, has kept tabs on him. How­ever, a spokesman of Ger­many’s Fed­eral Crim­i­nal Po­lice Of­fice, which han­dles cases re­lated to ter­ror­ism, said they had been given no in­di­ca­tion of this, say­ing: “For us, he was a blank slate.”

Chekatt has served time in Ger­man prison for sev­eral rob­beries. An in­te­rior min­istry spokesman said Ger­many was un­aware of any Is­lamist link. He is one of 25,000 peo­ple on France’s “S” watch list of in­di­vid­u­als, seen as po­ten­tial se­cu­rity threats.

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties were on alert for the fugi­tive along the Rhine bor­der­ing France and Ger­many, said a spokesman from the Baden-Wurt­tem­berg re­gion.

“At the mo­ment we do not believe he has crossed into the coun­try,” he said.

Po­lice had tried to de­tain Chekatt on Tues­day morn­ing in con­nec­tion with an at­tempted mur­der in­quiry, but he was not at home.

They found a grenade, a ri­fle and four knives dur­ing a search of the sus­pect’s house on Tues­day morn­ing.

Four mem­bers of his fam­ily were de­tained for ques­tion­ing.

Po­lice believe Chekatt was shot in the arm dur­ing an ex­change of fire with French sol­diers in Stras­bourg’s city cen­tre. He then forced a taxi driver to take him to an­other part of the city.

Later, he crossed four po­lice­men. They re­sponded when he opened fire but once again he man­aged to flee.

At the drab hous­ing es­tate where he lived in Ho­hberg, on the out­skirts of Stras­bourg, neigh­bours were adamant that Chekatt was no Is­lamist but a cor­nered crim­i­nal who had “lost his mar­bles,” they said.

Only one vic­tim has been named — Anupong Sueb­samarn, a 45-year-old from Thai­land who was vis­it­ing Stras­bourg with his wife, who was in­jured.

FRED­ER­ICK FLORIN / AFP / GETTY IM­AGES

Mem­bers of the French po­lice spe­cial forces RAID con­duct searches on a bank of the river Rhine in Stras­bourg on Wednes­day in their hunt for the gun­man who opened fire near a Christ­mas mar­ket Tues­day night in Stras­bourg, France. Two have died and 13 are in­jured.

Cherif Chekatt

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