A gunman’s attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, that left two dead and more than a dozen wounded on Tuesday was an act of terrorism, a French prosecutor announced on Wednesday.
Witnesses say the suspect shouted, “Allah Akbar” and fired into the crowd at the market, which is a major winter tourist attraction at the center of the border city. He later took a taxi and tried to justify his actions to the driver.
The suspect, who remains at large, was identified by the French government as Cherif Chekkatt, a 29-year-old Strasbourg native with more than two dozen convictions on his record, in addition to stints in prison that authorities speculated may have led him to be radicalized. He was on the “Fiche S,” the government’s list of residents who pose a security risk. On the morning of the attack, the French interior ministry said, police attempted to arrest him in connection with an attempted murder. He wasn’t home.
The attack was reminiscent of the 2016 attack on the Berlin Christmas market, in which a Tunisian national who had pledged allegiance to ISIS killed 12 people. In France, it was an unwelcome reminder of the spate of jihadi terrorism that hit the country between 2015 and 2016, including attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan concert hall in Paris and the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
The Christmas market in Strasbourg, which has occupied the center of this city on the Rhine since 1570, was closed on Wednesday, but the city’s mayor, Roland Ries, said it would reopen on Thursday.