Around 7.50 p.m. [local time, 18.50 GMT) on Tuesday a man opened fire in the vicinity of Strasbourg’s famous Christmas Market, killing three people and injuring 12 others, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner confirmed.
Conflicting reports suggested that the death toll had risen to four, but the information has not been confirmed. French prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation while the police are chasing the suspect.
Suspect: Fugitive, But Identity Known
Shortly after the shots were reported, AFP cited a police source as saying that the suspect, who is still at large, had been identified. The 29-year-old man was known to security services and had been convicted in France and Germany and served his sentences, the minister added.
AFP cited a source familiar with the investigation as saying that the assailant had been flagged by the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) because he was noted for violence and religious proselytism while in prison.
The suspect was reportedly already wanted for armed robbery before the shooting.
Law enforcement agents are in pursuit, and are said to be conducting an operation in Strasbourg’s Neudorf District, where the perpetrator is believed to be hiding after wounding a French officer. According to Castaner, 350 officers, supported by two helicopters, have been mobilised to track him down.
French authorities have raised the security level to “emergency attack” and strengthened border controls, as well as reinforced surveillance at all Christmas markets “to avoid the risk of copycat attacks”.
Europe Stands in Solidarity
After being informed of the attack, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed solidarity with the families of victims on Twitter:
TWEET: "I express solidarity of the nation with whole Strasbourg, victims and their families".
Solidarité de la Nation tout entière pour Strasbourg, nos victimes et leurs familles.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) 12 December 2018
British Prime Minister Theresa May also took to Twitter to express her condolences:
Shocked and saddened by the terrible attack in Strasbourg. My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people.— Theresa May (@theresa_may) 11 December 2018
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker wrote: "My thoughts are with the victims of the Strasbourg shooting, which I condemn with the utmost firmness. Strasbourg is an excellent symbol of peace and European Democracy. [Of] Values that we will always defend. The Commissions stands in solidarity with France".
Mes pensées sont avec les victimes de la fusillade de Strasbourg que je condamne avec grande fermeté. Strasbourg est par excellence une ville symbole de la paix & de la démocratie européennes. Des valeurs que nous défendrons toujours. La Commission se tient aux côtés de la France— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) 11 December 2018