A man killed during a shootout in connection with Tuesday’s deadly Strasbourg Christmas market attack has been identified by Paris officials as the main suspect, according to the Associated Press.
Cherif Chekatt, 29, was shot by police on Thursday after he allegedly opened fire on officers in the Neudorf neighborhood of Strasbourg, AP reported. Police had been actively searching the Neudorf neighborhood for the suspect earlier in the day. Officials did not immediately identify the man as the main suspect, but the office of the Paris prosecutor confirmed his identity Thursday night.
Chekatt started shooting at police officers as soon as they tried to arrest him, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said, per AP. Police returned fire and killed him, according to Castaner.
Three people were killed and at least 12 others injured as a result of Tuesday’s attack at the busy Christmas market in Strasbourg. Chekatt, who has a criminal record in both France and Germany, had eluded police for two days following the shooting.
Chekatt was flagged as a potential extremist following the shooting on Tuesday. Explosive materials were found at his home after the shooting, Stephane Morisse of union FGP told the AP.
SITE Intelligence Group, an intelligence group that monitors extremist activity online, indicated that a news agency tied to the Islamic State is claiming the gunman as a “soldier” in its ranks, per AP. However, terrorist groups often claim alleged attackers even when they have no relation.
Anupong Suebsamarn, a 45-year-old from Thailand, was among the victims in the deadly shooting in the city of Strasbourg at a busy Christmas market. Thailand’s embassy in Paris confirmed that Suebsamarn, who had traveled to France with his wife, died in the shooting, the AP reported.
Suebsamarn’s uncle told the newspaper Khao Sod that he and his wife had initially planned to go to Paris, but decided to go to Strasbourg instead following the breakout of the yellow vest protests.
Chekatt’s parents and two brothers were among five people taken into custody as part of the police investigation into the shooting, according to the AP.
Police officials said the attacker was wounded while exchanging gunfire with soldiers on Tuesday, but escaped, the AP reported.
Laurent Nunez, secretary of state for the interior ministry, told France-Inter radio that eight of the people who were injured in the shooting are in critical condition and that Strasbourg’s mayor had sustained some head wounds.
Among those in critical condition is Antonio Megalizzi, a 28-year-old Italian radio journalist who had traveled to Strasbourg to cover a session of European Parliament. According to the news agency ANSA, Megalizzi was shot at the base of his cranium. His family and girlfriend have gone to France to be with him.
The European Parliament, which is located in Strasbourg, was locked down during the shooting.
French police wrote on Twitter that a “serious incident” was taking place in Strasbourg, and asked the public to remain inside.
A local news reporter, Bruno Poussard, wrote on Twitter that he had heard “bursts” of gunshots at around 7:55 p.m.
French President Emmanuel Macron adjourned a meeting at the presidential palace to allow him to monitor the situation, the AP reported.
The Christmas market has attracted terrorist threats in the past. Ten Algerian and French-Algerian terrorists, who were affiliated with al-Qaeda, were sentenced to prison for planning to blow up the market on New Year’s Eve in 2000, according to the AP.