A massive manhunt took place in eastern France on Wednesday, as security forces searched for a suspected extremist who launched a shooting attack near a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg.
The suspected assailant, Cherif C., killed two people, left one brain-dead and injured at least 12 others in the attack on Tuesday night, officials said, adding that several of those wounded have critical injuries.
At least 350 police special forces members 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. Cherif C., a 29-year-old with a long rap sheet including armed robbery, was on France's terror watchlist.
French police published a picture of the suspect and asked for the public's assistance in providing any information about him or his current whereabouts.
Speaking with reporters early Wednesday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the country was raising the security threat alert level and would bolster the protection of Christmas markets and strengthen border controls. Four people have been taken into custody, including the suspect's father and two brothers.
Reporting from the scene earlier, DW Brussels bureau chief Max Hofmann posted a video on Twitter.
President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday joined ministers and top security officials at the Interior Ministry for a crisis meeting. "All the nation is in solidarity with Strasbourg, the victims and their families," he later tweeted.
Attack on 'symbol of peace'
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, into 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.
Germany bolsters border controls
Police in the neighboring German state of Baden-Württemberg have reinforced border controls at the crossing into Strasbourg. Extra patrols were also put into place along the 30-kilometer (19-mile) stretch of French-German border encompassing Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.
The suspect has previous convictions in both France and Germany and has served time in prison, according to 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 and Thursday.
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."
amp/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)