At least three people have been killed in a shooting in the eastern French city of Strasbourg. Parts of the city are still on lockdown and a major security operation is underway around the city’s famed Christmas market.
A gunman opened fire near a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday evening, killing at least three people and injuring 11 others, local officials have said. Earlier media reports said four people had been killed, dw.com reports.
Several of those wounded have critical injuries, police said. At least 350 police special forces and troops, along with two helicopters, are still searching for the shooter, who was known to France’s internal security services as a suspected risk. He is said to be wounded.
Prosecutors have opened a terrorism probe into the shooting. The attack is the third deadly incident in France this year to be officially categorized as terrorism.
President Iohannis sends condolences message to French President Macron
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has sent a message of condolences to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron after the shootings in Strasbourg, the Presidential Administration informs.
“I have learned with indignation about the tragic armed attack on the evening of December 11, 2018 downtown Strasbourg, which has led to loss of human lives and has left people wounded.
I want to convey, on behalf of the Romanian people and on me personally condolences to the grieving families and to wish fast recovery of those wounded,” the message reads.
The head of state has also expressed compassion and solidarity from the Romanian people with the suffering the French nation is passing through, stressing that Romania stands by France in the fight against those to attempt to innocent lives and to our societies’ way of life.
PM Viorica Dancila condemns attack. Foreign Ministry: No Romanian citizens involved
In a post on Twitter, Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has condemned the attack in Strasbourg.
“I am deeply saddened by the terrible information from Strasbourg. I firmly condemn the attack on innocent people who wanted to visit the Christmas market. My thoughts are with the victims and their families,” the Premier wrote Wednesday morning.
On the other hand, the Romanian Foreign Ministry (MAE) has informed that no casualties of Romanian citizenship have been confirmed.
“Romania’s Consulate General in Strasbourg closely follows the incident occurred on the evening of December 11 in Kleber market and has conducted, in an emergency procedure, demarches upon the local authorities to collect additional information regarding the citizenship and identity of the people affected. Until now, no Romanian citizens have been confirmed among the victims and no requests for consular assistance have been registered,” MAE informed Tuesday night.
Security threat level increased in France
Speaking with reporters early Wednesday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said France was raising the security threat level and would bolster the protection of Christmas markets and strengthen border controls.
Early Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron joined ministers and top security officials at the Interior Ministry for a crisis meeting. “The entire nation is in solidarity with Strasbourg, the victims and their families,” he tweeted afterwards.
Shortly after the shooting and with the manhunt underway, authorities put the city center and other major sites, including a sports arena and the European Parliament, in lockdown. Hundreds of MEPs and officials were in the Parliament attending a plenary session when the attack began.
After midnight, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said MPs were able to leave the building at their own risk, as long as they were staying outside the city center. Any MPs headed toward the city center would need to be accompanied by police, he said.
Police in the neighboring German state of Baden-Württemberg have reinforced border controls at the crossing into Strasbourg. The suspect has previous convictions in both France and Germany and has served time in prison, according to Interior Minister Castaner.
Strasbourg’s Christmas market is a popular tourist destination, drawing millions of visitors every year. Mayor Roland Ries has said the Christmas market would remain closed on Wednesday.
The attack unfolded at around 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday close to Strasbourg’s famed Christmas market near one of the central squares, Place Kléber, which attracts thousands of visitors at this time of year, bbc.com reports.
The gunman exchanged fire with officers who were patrolling the area as part of anti-terror measures.
According to France’s BFM TV, he managed to reach a taxi which drove him away from the scene and dropped him in the vicinity of the police station in Neudorf, the area where he is understood to live.
It was the taxi driver who told police the man was wounded in his left leg.
Residents in Neudorf have been urged to stay indoors.
A picture is beginning to emerge of the suspected attacker, although a motive is still not known. He has not been officially named, but French media are referring to him as Cherif C.
Multiple terrorist attacks have shaken France in recent years. Since 2015, more than 200 people have been killed in attacks inspired or commissioned by the Islamist terrorist group “Islamic State.”
Photo: suspect called Cherif C, TV capture TVR 1- Strasbourg