The suspect sought in Tuesday’s Christmas market terror attack in Strasbourg was killed by French police tonight.
Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old French national who had been on one of France’s terror watch lists since 2015, had been hiding since the incident in the Neudorf-Meinau neighborhood where he lived, according to local media.
The Amaq News Agency, which is affiliated with ISIS, immediately claimed Chekatt as an “Islamic State soldier” who responded to the terror group’s call to attack coalition countries.
— Jean-Charles Brisard (@JcBrisard) December 13, 2018
Agence France Press reports:
More than 700 French security forces had been hunting for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt since the bloodshed on Tuesday night.
He was believed to have been injured after exchanging fire with soldiers during the attack, but managed to escape and had not been seen since getting out of a taxi in the Neudorf area of the northern French city.
Minutes before he was shot dead on Thursday, a helicopter with powerful searchlight flew over Neudorf.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters police swooped after the suspect was spotted in the street.
Officers tried to arrest him, but he shot at police. “They immediately returned fire and neutralised the assailant,” Castaner said.
Earlier in the day the ISIS-affiliated Al-Naba newspaper had a lengthy write-up about the Strasbourg attack, but at that time did not take credit.
In latest issue of Al Naba newspaper ISIS notes #Strasbourg terror attack. Islamic State relegates story to world news roundup of its weekly newspaper saying gunman exclaimed "Allahu Akbar" while carrying out attack but does not claim responsibility for attack pic.twitter.com/WMSEajwMkz
— jihadoScope (@JihadoScope) December 13, 2018
Many details about Chekatt’s background emerged as the manhunt continued this week.
Among the reports was that Chekatt had not only been on France’s “Fiche S” terror watchlist since 2015, making this yet another case of “Known Wolf” terrorism, but had also been in the FSPRT database which, according to Rukmini Callimachi of the New York Times, flags extremists whose “radicalization has a terrorist dimension.”
It was also reported yesterday that Chekatt was one of 12,000 “gangster-jihadists” in France who operate under the radar of French intelligence services and are deemed radicalized but not likely to become violent.
The Associated Press reports that Chekatt began having run-ins with French police at age 10 and was first arrested at the age of 13.
Paris Prosecutor Rémy Heitz said on Wednesday that Chekatt had 27 arrests on his record, and had been convicted of crimes in France, Germany, and Switzerland. He had been deported from Germany in 2017.
Le Parisien reported earlier today that Chekatt had been a fan of Osama bin Laden for at least the past decade.
We’ve also learned more about the terror attack itself.
According to witnesses at the scene, Chekatt shouted, “Allah akhbar” as he sprayed gunfire at the Strasbourg Christmas market, the oldest such market in Europe.
Armed with a gun and a knife, Chekatt escaped the scene by jumping into a taxi.
The German broadcaster Inforadio reported yesterday that he had received a phone call from Germany just prior to the attack.
At least five others have been arrested since Tuesday’s attack, including members of his “entourage.”
And yet certain segments of the U.S. and Western media again played the “motive is a mystery” game that seems to accompany these major terror incidents, including the New York Times:
It remains unclear what motivated the gunman who opened fire at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, officials said, as the police continue an intensive search for the attacker https://t.co/BVuv5X8KRU
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 12, 2018
But the second paragraph of the Times‘ article notes that Chekatt was shouting “Allah akhbar!” during the attack, which at the Old Gray Lady is translated to mean, “We may never know his motive.”
Turkish state TV also interviewed someone claiming to know Chekatt who believed the attack wasn’t terrorism:
France identifies Cherif Chekkatt as Strasbourg shooting suspect and calls the attack an act of terror. But one man, who has known Chekkatt since he was a child, tells us he's not sure the incident was motivated by terrorism https://t.co/a2ZqsKXtMj pic.twitter.com/ffeRzC2Zyr
— TRT World (@trtworld) December 13, 2018
Undoubtedly, more details will be forthcoming about Chekatt and any possible links to international terror networks.