French police shot and killed Christmas market attack suspect Chérif Chekatt this evening as ISIS officially claimed responsibility for the Tuesday mass shooting.
The death toll rose to three today. Victims identified so far are Anupong Suebsamarn, who was vacationing in France from Thailand, and Kamal Naghchband, an Afghan who immigrated to France 18 years ago and owned an auto repair shop in Strasbourg. Naghchband had been strolling with his family when he was shot in the head.
Out of the dozen people wounded, three were still in critical condition.
Accused gunman Chekatt, 29, was born in Strasbourg and engaged in two firefights with police before escaping Tuesday. His criminal history in Germany and Switzerland prompted France to put extra focus on the border as they hunted for Chekatt and raised the country’s terror alert.
But it turns out Chekatt didn’t go far. According to French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, three police officers were on routine patrol in a neighborhood that had been searched earlier in the day when they encountered a man who matched Chekatt’s description. As they moved to take him into custody, Chekatt opened fire on the officers and police shot him.
Castaner also said that the city’s Christmas market would reopen on Friday. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted thanks “to all the services mobilized, police, gendarme and military. Our commitment to terrorism is total.”
ISIS issued a statement today, citing their Amaq news agency, claiming “an attack by a soldier of the Islamic State, in the city of Strasbourg, east of France, Tuesday evening, in response to the call to target the nationals of the countries of the coalition.”
The format is similar to claims ISIS has made for other attacks in the past. ISIS also described the attack in the news briefs section of their weekly al-Naba newsletter released today.
French officials have not said whether they have determined Chekatt was tied to a specific terror group.
Police have detained four members of Chekatt’s family — his parents and two brothers — and arrested a non-related man described as being part of Chekatt’s “entourage.”
Chekatt had a lengthy rap sheet of 27 total convictions, including serving time in Germany for burglary of a dentist and a pharmacy and serving time in Switzerland for robbery. Police had attempted to arrest Chekatt hours before the market attack on charges of attempted robbery and attempted murder; he reportedly escaped and officials found explosives at his home.
He was on a national security watch list and reportedly flagged as potentially being radicalized in prison, though German officials said they had no information about Chekatt having “an Islamist background.” The Paris prosecutor told reporters that he cried “Allahu Akbar” at the scene of the attack and was armed with a handgun and a knife.