The Latest: French police step up hunt for Strasbourg gunman

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STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The Latest on the attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France (all times local):

11:45 p.m.

The office of the Paris prosecutor, which handles terrorism cases in France, says a man killed in Strasbourg in a shootout with police has been identified as the main suspect in a Christmas market attack that killed three people.

The man was identified as Charif Chekatt, a 29-year-old whom police had been searching for since Tuesday night’s attack near Strasbourg’s Christmas market, which also left 13 people wounded.

Earlier, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had said police had been attempting to arrest a man fitting the suspect’s description when the man turned around and opened fire on them. Police responded, killing the shooter.

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11:20 p.m.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online, says the Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency is claiming the gunman who opened fire near a Christmas market in Strasbourg as a “soldier” of the group.

The claim was published shortly after news emerged of a shootout with French police in Strasbourg Thursday night in which a man believed to be the suspect was killed. IS claims of responsibility have often been considered opportunistic in the past.

French police had been searching for 29-year-old Charif Chekatt, the suspected shooter during the Tuesday night that killed three people and wounded 13.

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10:20 p.m.

France’s interior minister says the prosecutor in charge of terror-related investigations is heading to the scene of a police shootout in Strasbourg to confirm if a man killed by officers is the suspect in the attack near the city’s Christmas market.

Christophe Castaner said from Strasbourg late Thursday that police spotted an individual who matched the description of 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt. He has been the focus of a massive manhunt since Tuesday’s attack.

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Castaner says the moment they tried to arrest the man they spotted in the Neudorf neighborhood, he started shooting. The minister says police returned fire, killing the man.

Neudorf is where the suspect last was seen after the Tuesday attack that killed three people.

Authorities say Chekatt was born in Strasbourg and appeared on a watch list of potential extremists.

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9:30 p.m.

A top French official says a suspect has been killed in a shootout with police in Strasbourg, but hasn’t been confirmed as the alleged gunman who killed three people near a Christmas market on Tuesday.

The official, who could not be named because the operation was ongoing, said the suspect opened fire on police Thursday night, and police responded, killing him.

A local police official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said the man who opened fire was armed with a pistol and a knife.

The shooting occurred in the Neudorf neighborhood, where police conducted a search earlier Thursday for Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old born in Strasbourg who police named as the suspected Christmas market gunman.

— By Elaine Ganley and Samuel Petrequin

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5:40 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor’s office says a fifth person has been arrested and placed in custody in connection with the investigation into Tuesday’s shooting near Strasbourg’s Christmas market.

The office said the man is a member of the “entourage” of main suspect Cherif Chekatt, 29, but not a family member. He was placed in custody on Thursday morning. The four others detained were Chekatt’s parents and two of his brothers.

A massive manhunt is underway for Chekatt.

Three people died in Tuesday’s attack, and 13 people were also injured.

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5:30 p.m.

A police operation has ended in the Strasbourg neighborhood where a suspected gunman who killed three people and wounded 13 was last seen.

There was no word on what, if anything, the Thursday evening operation had uncovered. A police official had earlier said security forces, including the elite Raid squad, had taken action on a “supposition only” that suspect Cherif Chekatt could have been hiding in a building in the area. The official could not be identified because he was not authorized to disclose details.

Authorities said a taxi driver dropped Chekatt off Tuesday evening in the Neudorf neighborhood, south of the eastern French city’s center, after the shooting near a Christmas market.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was expected in Strasbourg Thursday evening.

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4 p.m.

AP journalists and a French police official say a police operation is going on in the Strasbourg neighborhood where a suspected Christmas market gunman was last seen.

One French police official said security forces, including the elite Raid squad, are taking action on Thursday based on a “supposition only” that the suspect, 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, could be hiding in a nearby building. The official could not be identified because he was not allowed to disclose details on the investigation.

Authorities said a taxi driver dropped Chekatt off Tuesday evening in the Neudorf neighborhood, south of the eastern French city’s center, after the shooting near the Christmas market. He is believed to be the gunman who left three dead and 13 wounded in an attack that night.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Brussels where he is attending a European summit, said Interior minister Christophe Castaner will travel to Strasbourg on Thursday evening.

— By Elaine Ganley

This version corrects the spelling of the suspect’s last name to Chekatt, not Chekkat.

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10:30 a.m.

French security forces are trying to catch the suspected Strasbourg gunman “dead or alive” as the city in eastern France mourned with flowers and lit candles left at the site of the attack near its famous Christmas market.

More than 700 officers were involved Thursday in the manhunt for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, who had a long criminal record and had been flagged for extremism, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television.

Asked about instructions given to police forces, Griveaux said the focus was on catching the suspect “as soon as possible,” no matter whether he was dead or alive, and “put an end to the manhunt.”

Chekatt allegedly shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire during Tuesday’s rampage near Strasbourg’s Christmas market, which left three people dead and wounded 13 others.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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