At least two people have been killed and 12 people injured as a lone gunman opened fire in the French city of Strasbourg. The gunman opened fire near the city’s Christmas market which is frequented by thousands of shoppers in the weeks leading up to the national holiday.
One of the dead is a Thai tourist who was shot in the head outside a restaurant. Several of the injured are reported to be in a critical condition. The French interior minister, Christophe Castaner, who is on his way to the city, called it a "serious public security incident".
The gunman is armed with an automatic rifle. He opened fire near the Strasbourg market shortly after 8pm local time. Witnesses say the gunman started shooting at one street corner before stopping and walking to another street and opening fire again.
The gunman is now on the run and French police have launched a massive manhunt. The police’s Counter-terrorism department has opened an investigation. The gunman is supposed to have been injured in a gunfight with soldiers as he reportedly shot at them while they were on a patrol near the Strasbourg market. French Police confirmed the gunman, one Chekatt Chérif, aged 29, and born in Strasbourg, is on the national “Fiche S” list of people, basically on a 'terror-watch list.'
Police are now trying to find 29-year-old Chekatt Chérif, who was already on their terrorist watch list. He has just killed 4 people at Christmas market in #Strasbourg France. pic.twitter.com/D1ajIuDGJv
— Alana Mastrangelo (@ARmastrangelo) December 11, 2018
The shooting has taken place even as the city is hosting a session of the European Parliament. The European Parliament is on lockdown, and the parliament’s safety awareness division sent a message to MEPs advising them to “please stay inside and don’t go out”.
“[A] decision has been taken, as a precautionary measure, to close the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. We ask you to stay calm and safe within [European parliament] premises,” the advisory message said.
There were multiple witnesses to the shooting. One local resident described the incident to the Guardian. He said, “he heard “two or three shots” and screams; when he went to his window he saw people running. “After that I closed the shutters. Then I heard more shots, closer this time. “There were two or three episodes like that ... As it got close, it was really shocking. There were a lot of screams.”
The Yorkshire and Humber MEP Richard Corbett tweeted that he heard what sounded like gunshots, “where shots (were) fired”. The restaurant was “not letting anyone in or out”, he added.
Am in restaurant in centre of #strasbourg where shots fired with unconfirmed reports of 3 dead.
Restaurant locked and not letting anyone in or out.
— Richard Corbett (@RCorbettMEP) December 11, 2018
Some residents saw a soldier engage the gunman. The soldiers were also ordering those on the street to get indoors immediately.
Strasbourg is a city that lies on the French-German border. In response to the incident, German police have said they are increasing security at the border near Strasbourg. The transnational tramway service between France and Germany was suspended.
This is a developing story.