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France shooting: Suspected gunman identified, search continues

(NBC15)
Published: Dec. 12, 2018 at 6:02 AM CST
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France is on the hunt for a 29-year-old gunman who fired gunshots near the famous Christmas market of Strasbourg, killing three and wounding at least 13.

Two police officials have identified the suspect in the shooting attack as Cherif Cherkatt.

One police source said Chekatt's criminal record mentions 25 judicial cases, including several serious cases of robbery.

The suspected gunman was convicted of robbery in Germany in 2016 and sentenced to two years and three months in prison for breaking into a dental practice and a pharmacy.

The verdict from a district court in Singen, obtained by The Associated Press, says he was also sentenced to prison in France in 2008 and in Basel, Switzerland in 2013 for various robberies. News agency dpa reported that he was deported to France in 2017.

According to the verdict, the suspected attacker grew up with six siblings in Strasbourg, worked for local authorities after leaving school and had been unemployed since 2011. He said he had been traveling a lot and had already spent four years in prison. The German robberies took place in Mainz, near Frankfurt, in 2012 and in Engen, near the Swiss border, in 2016.

A police official said the suspect's apartment was searched by police on Tuesday morning -- hours before the shooting -- in an investigation for attempted murder. He was not at home at the time.

The two officials spoke anonymously because they were not allowed to speak publicly on an ongoing investigation.

A senior French government official says that five people have been detained as police hunt for the man who attacked the Strasbourg Christmas market, but the gunman remains at large.

Laurent Nunez, secretary of state for the interior ministry, said Wednesday on France-Inter radio that the attacker could have fled to neighboring Germany.

The French government raised the security alert level and sent police reinforcements to Strasbourg where some 250 security forces are searching for the assailant.

A terrorism investigation was opened.

While authorities urged people in the area to stay inside, Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries told BFM television Wednesday that "life must go on" so that the city doesn't cede to a "terrorist who is trying to disrupt our way of life."

Strasbourg is considered one of Europe's capitals. It's home to the European Parliament.

The European Parliament is planning a minute of silence at noon to remember the victims of the Strasbourg shooting, which happened only a few miles from the legislature.

European Parliament Antonio Tajani called the shooting "a criminal attack against peace, against democracy, against our model of life."

He said that even as the Parliament went into a lockdown late Tuesday, legislators continued their work until midnight. "We have to go forward and not change our ways," Tajani said.

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