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Gunman evades French police, death toll hits 3

French police officers patrol in the streets front of fl owers to pay respects to the victims following an attack killing three persons and wounding at least 13, in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Dec 13. Police union officials identified the suspected assailant as Frenchman Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old with a thick police record for crimes including armed robbery and monitored as a suspected religious radical by the French intelligence services. (AP)

STRASBOURG, France, Dec 13, (Agencies): The death toll in an attack on Strasbourg’s Christmas market rose to three on Thursday as police searched through eastern France and manned checkpoints on the German border in a hunt for the fugitive gunman.

Police issued a wanted poster for Cherif Chekatt, the main suspect in the attack, who was on an watchlist as a potential security threat. Authorities say the 29-year-old was known to have developed radical religious views while in jail. France has raised its security threat to the highest level in response to Tuesday evening’s shooting rampage, which Strasbourg’s mayor said was indisputably an act of terrorism.

Two people were killed and a third victim who was hospitalised has now died, the Paris Prosecutor’s office said. A fourth victim has been declared braindead. At least 12 people were wounded, several of them critically.

More than 700 police were taking part in the second day of the manhunt in Strasbourg, which lies on the west bank of the Rhine river, and the surrounding region. Armed French and German police manned controls on either side of the Europe Bridge, which spans the frontier. Traffic on the French side was heavily backed up as officers inspected vehicles during the morning rush-hour. Police in the German town of Kehl, on the opposite riverbank, said they had received several reports of possible sightings on Wednesday but all were false leads.

Asked if French police had been instructed to catch Chekatt dead or alive, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews: “It doesn’t matter. The best thing would be to find him as quickly as possible.” It took police four months to track down Salah Abdesalam, the prime surviving suspect from the November 2015 militant assault on Paris, in an apartment in Brussels. One hundred and thirty people were killed in that attack as well as seven gunmen and bombers.

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