French Police have shot and killed 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, the suspected gunman of the attack at an outdoor Christmas market in the northeast city of Strasbourg which killed five people and injured 11 others. French authorities say Chekatt had multiple criminal convictions and was on a security services watchlist as a suspected Islamist extremist. Chekatt was reportedly scheduled to be arrested for an armed robbery and attempted murder charge on the day of the shooting.
He was known to security services for a total of 27 convictions in France, Germany, and Switzerland, with 67 recorded crimes in France alone. French police considered him a “gangster-jihadist”, a term referring to people convicted of various crimes and “radicalized” in prison. 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.
On December 11th, just before 8pm, Chekatt allegedly entered the outdoor market area and opened fire in three different areas. The shooting lasted ten minutes and was heard shouting “Allahu akbar” as he fired into the crowd. He also attacked people with a knife before exchanging fire with soldiers of Opération Sentinelle and with the National Police. Despite being shot in the arm during the shootout with authorities, he escaped the area in a taxi cab. The cab driver was unharmed and reported having taken an armed and wounded man from the area to police immediately.
France issued the highest level of security alert and two days later Chekatt was killed in a shootout with French police after a manhunt involving 700 officers. An investigation was initiated after the attack and four people close to Chekatt were detained for questioning after the shooting. Those detained were his father, his mother, and two of his brothers. A fifth person was taken into custody and a search warrant was issued in Algeria for a “very radicalized” third brother. Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz, who handles terror cases throughout France, told a news conference that a total of seven people were in police custody. His parents and two of his brothers were later released “due to the lack of incriminating evidence at this stage” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Two victims of the shooting died at the scene and the three others later died in the hospital. Four of the 11 people injured are in critical condition. Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, a tourist from Thailand was shot multiple times and died at the scene. He was on holiday with his wife, who was also shot but survived. Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries told French TV that a local resident who has only been identified as a 61-year-old retired bank employee had also been killed. Kamal Naghchband, a 45 year old mechanic and father of three was shot in the head while walking with his family. He fell into a coma and died two days later. Antonio Megalizzi, a 29-year-old Italian journalist covering the European Parliament plenary session was critically injured and died of his wounds three days later. Barto Pedro Orent-Niedzielski, a 36-year-old Polish-born man was also critically injured in the attack and his death was announced three days later. Orent-Niedzielski and his Italian friend Antonio Megalizzi, who were at the market together, were severely injured when they tried to stop Chekatt from entering a bar during the assault.