The manhunt for a suspected terrorist who killed two and left a third victim with irreversible brain damage in Strasbourg, eastern France, spread to Germany on Wednesday as authorities confirmed he shouted “Allahu Akbar” before opening fire.
Another 12 people were injured, with at least two in a critical condition from head injuries.
The Strasbourg-born suspect has been named as 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, who is believed to have gone on the" killing spree with a gun and long knife near the city’s famed Christmas market, visited by two million people every year.
Speaking after the attack Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said: “The terrorist threat is still at the heart of the life of our nation.”
As police launched a call for witnesses and 720 officers hunted for the suspect, questions were raised last night as to why he was considered a potentially dangerous radical in France but nothing more than a common criminal in Germany.
Rémy Heitz, the Paris prosecutor, said the suspect had 27 previous convictions in France, Germany and Switzerland for theft and armed robbery.
He was first flagged to authorities at the age of 10. He was added to a watchlist of potential Islamist while in prison in France in 2015 for “practising a radical form of religion”.
Since then, France's domestic intelligence agency, the DGSI, has kept tabs on him.
However, a spokeswoman of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, which handles cases related to terrorism, said they had been given no indication of this, saying: "For us, he was a blank slate.”
Chekatt has served time in German prison for several robberies.
An interior ministry spokeswoman said Germany was totally unaware of any Islamist link.
The suspect is one of 25,000 people currently on France’s "S" watchlist of individuals seen as potential security threats.
Speaking to French MPs, Laurent Nunez, deputy interior minister, said that while he was monitored, “unfortunately, radicalisation was never detected and even less a desire to commit a violent act”.
German authorities were on alert for the fugitive along the Rhine river bordering France and Germany, said a spokesman from the Baden-Wuerttemberg region.
"But at the moment we do not believe that he has crossed into the country," he added.
Police had tried to detain Cherif on Tuesday morning in connection with an attempted murder inquiry, but he was not at home.
They found a grenade, a rifle and four knives during a search on Tuesday morning of the suspect’s house. Four members of his entourage were being detained for questioning.
These reportedly include his parents and two brothers, one of him, according to Le Parisien, is believed to be a follower of Salafism, an ultra-conservative form of Islam.
He was shot in the arm during an exchange of fire with French soldiers in the city centre and then forced a taxi driver to take him to another part of the city.
Later, he crossed four policemen. They riposted when he opened fire but he managed to flee once again.
At the drab housing estate where he lived in Hohberg on the outskirts of Strasbourg, neighbours were adamant Chekatt was no Islamist but a cornered criminal who had “lost his marbles”.
“For us, he wasn’t radicalised, he was a thug,” a resident called Zak, 22, told the Telegraph.
“He lost the plot because he had botched an armed robbery beforehand. He knew the police were after him. He had a criminal history and knew he was looking at 10 years or so he lost it.”
He said the district was very mixed in terms of religion and everyone lived “in harmony”.
Toufik Elkiri, 33, a taxi driver whose colleague had been held hostage by the gunman, said: “I’m a practicing Muslim and have never seen him at any of the mosques around here. He smoked too much pot. Friends saw him drinking beer the other day. But there’s nothing religious or radicalised about him.”
Central Strasbourg was eerily quiet last night with the Christmas market and its wooden chalets offering mulled wine, foie gras and truffles all shut.
The market will remain closed on Thursday.
In rue des Orfèvres, flowers and candles were laid out at the spot the gunman shot his first victim. One message read: “All united against barbarity”.
Lidia Molinari, 22, a sociology student who lives in rue des Orfèvres where the shooting started, said: “I was at home and heard shots fired.”
Tourists staying in a flat she manages nearby were caught up in the drama.
“They saw everything, the shots, people lying on the floor, blood everywhere. They decided to shorten their stay and return to Paris,” she said.
Pensioner Isabelle Tardot, 60, from Gerstheim outside Strasbourg, said: “We’re here out of solidarity, support. It doesn’t scare us but we feel terrible for the victims.”
Only one has been named, Anupong Suebsamarn, a 45-year old tourist from Thailand in Strasbourg with his wife, who was injured.
Among those in a critical condition was an Italian journalist covering the European parliament, according to his country's foreign ministry.
Poland's embassy in Paris tweeted that one of its citizens was also among the victims.
Mrs Tardot's husband, Philippe, 62, said: “I hope they open the market up again otherwise it’s too easy for one person to stop millions of people from enjoying Christmas. We can’t let that happen.”
May 'shocked' by Strasbourg shootings
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is "shocked and saddened" by the "terrible" attack in Strasbourg.
Mrs May tweeted: "My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people."
Shocked and saddened by the terrible attack in Strasbourg. My thoughts are with all of those affected and with the French people.— Theresa May (@theresa_may) December 11, 2018
More from the ground in Strasbourg
A student, Glenn Essoly, says she has sought refuge with other people in a library. “We don’t know how long we’ll have to stay here. We’re hoping it won’t be all night. We really hope it will be over soon but we don’t have any information.”
A waiter from a restaurant near the scene of the shooting described on BFM TV how staff and customers tried to save a man who stepped outside and was shot in the head. “We used napkins to try to stem the blood,” he said. He said the man had died.
Reports of a second suspect
According to Strasbourg town hall, another operation is taking place at Place Broglie. "There is a strong suspicion that a second person" may be implicated in the shooting, police sources told Le Figaro.
Attacker's date of birth released
French media have given the attacker’s date of birth - 4 February 1989 - but officials have yet to release a name.
Border checks strengthened
With the attacker still on the run, the French and German authorities have strengthened checks on the border, which is near Strasbourg.
Witnesses describe seeing multiple victims
Alain Moyemont, a witness, told BFM TV: “I saw people in the crowd running in panic after the shooting started. At least two people were on the ground.”
Philippe, a local resident, told Europe 1 radio: “I saw a person on the ground, unconscious and bleeding. There was another person on the ground just behind, and one or two more a bit further along the street.”
'European Parliament will not be intimidated'
President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani tweeted a message of condolence and defiance against the attacker.
I express all my sorrow for the victims of the Strasbourg attacks. This Parliament will not be intimidated by terrorist or criminal attacks. Let us move on. We will continue to work and react strengthened by freedom and democracy against terrorist violence.— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) December 11, 2018
Grenade found at attacker's home
Police raided the attacker’s home this morning in connection with another case, and found at least one grenade, BFM TV reports
French terror attacks
The Strasbourg attack is the latest in a string of recent terror attacks in France.
In August 2017, a BMW 2-Series Active Tourer was driven into a group of soldiers in a suburb of Paris. Six people were injured, three seriously. The driver was then stopped on the A16 motorway, being shot several times in the process.
That June, a Renault Megane containing explosives and weapons was driven into a Gendarmerie vehicle on the Champs-Élysées in Paris . Only the attacker was killed in what is understood to be a 'botched' suicide attack.
In July 2016, a lorry was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day near the seafront in Nice killing. 87 people, including the attacker, and injuring a further 458.
Shooter born in Strasbourg
The Strasbourg attacker is said to be aged 29 and Strasbourg-born, but now name has been disclosed.
According to BFM TV, the attacker is on the “S” file terror watch list.
The man was identified thanks to security footage, according to Le Parisien.
Soldiers wounded attacker
The attacker was wounded by soldiers before fleeing, police say.
The soldiers who wounded the attacker were on patrol in Strasbourg as part of the “Sentinel” anti-terrorism operation.
Armed soldiers and police have been patrolling the streets of French cities since the 2015 Paris attacks.
Shooting being treated as terror attack
Authorities say they are treating the attack as a terrorist act. Anti-terrorist prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Death toll rises to two
Two people are now reported dead and 11 injured, with at least two in critical condition after the attack.
Emergency phone line
The French authorities have set up an emergency line for people with relatives or friends who may have been caught up in the attack . It is: 00-33- (0)811 000 667.
The attacker, who is "on the run”, has been identified, the Prefecture says, but it has not made the name public.
Police continue to hunt for the attacker.
Macron informed on Strasbourg latest
The office of Emmanuel Macron says the President is being kept informed of unfolding events in Strasbourg as the Interior Minister travels to the scene.
Attacker on the run
The regional state prefecture has confirmed that an attacker is "on the run".
Fire brigade increases number of injured
The local fire brigade have reported one person dead and nine injured.
The motive for the shooting and the identities of the attackers are still unknown.
Residents told to stay inside
The French Interior Minister is advising residents of the eastern city to stay indoors as more details begin to emerge on the shooting incident.
European Parliament on lockdown
A contact at the European Parliament in Strasbourg has told the Telegraph that all EU staff and MEPs have been locked inside the building.
"We ask you to stay calm and stay safe within EP premises," read a message to staff.