The bustle of holiday shopping gave way to a lockdown in the French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday after a gunman killed at least three people and wounded a dozen others in a suspected terrorist attack, according to police.
Prosecutors say the shooter has been identified but remains at large after authorities went to his house and failed to find him. The 29-year-old suspect has a criminal record and has been linked to radicalism. FGP Police union official Stephane Morisse said officers found explosive materials at the home.
Morisse said the suspect was shot and wounded by soldiers standing guard over the Christmas market, but he was still able to escape.
The evening attack happened at the city’s world-famous Christmas market. France, where most of Europe’s worst terror attacks of recent years took place, is raising its terror alert level and sending security reinforcements to Strasbourg, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
Some 350 security forces and two helicopters were involved in the search for the assailant, who had been radicalized for “several years” and confronted law enforcement officers twice while he “sowed terror” in Strasbourg, Castaner said.
The death toll stood at three early Wednesday, he said. Two police union officials said earlier there were four victims. Officials did not explain the conflicting numbers.
A dozen more people were wounded, half of them who were in “absolute emergency” critical condition, Castaner said.
French military spokesman Col. Patrik Steiger said the shooter didn’t seem to be aiming for the soldiers patrolling in and around the market, but appeared to target civilians instead.
It’s unclear if the market — which was the nucleus of an al-Qaida plot in 2000 — was targeted. The city is also home to the European Parliament, which was locked down after the shooting. So were other parts of the city.
French interior minister Christophe Castaner and Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees anti-terror probes in France, headed to Strasbourg. The prosecutor’s office said the investigation is for murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jorge L. Ortiz