Gunman and police exchange fire after Strasbourg Christmas market shooting
A gunman is on the run after two people were killed when shots were fired near a Christmas market in Strasbourg.
Eleven people were injured, several critically, when gunshots were heard just after 8pm near the market in Place Kleber, which attracts millions of tourists each year.
Police armed with machine guns were seen running into the square moments later and it was quickly evacuated.
The mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, said the suspect had not yet been apprehended.
Police said they have identified the gunman, who was known to them for criminal activity, and are chasing him down.
The local prefecture said he was an “S file” security risk – a list of anyone in France suspected of being a radical.
Gunfire was exchanged with the suspect who was wounded by soldiers, police confirmed an hour after the incident started.
The gunman wounded an armed soldier who was deployed as part of Operation Sentinel, set up after the 2015 Paris attacks to protect areas which could be a terrorism target.
A terror investigation has been opened for murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise, the French prosecutor’s office said, as they confirmed he is heading to Strasbourg.
Strasbourg residents living nearby were told to remain inside by the Ministry of the Interior.
Emmanuel Foulon, a press officer for the European Parliament, which is based two miles away, was in the square at the time and said there was panic and everyone got to the ground in restaurants around the square.
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson, who had just left the market, told Sky News: “We were walking towards the scene of where the shooting took place.
“I heard over six shots and at that stage, there was chaos, confusion, everyone was running – there was pandemonium.
“There were some people with children walking towards the incident and we were telling them to move back.
“Most people were shocked, confused – there was pandemonium – people didn’t understand what was happening – we hadn’t [either]. We had heard the shots quite clearly and there were people running away from the scene.”
She said there had been a “jovial atmosphere” at the market before the shots rang out.
Several MEPs and journalists working inside the European Parliament said they were on lockdown inside the building, which is a few kilometres from the square.
Malta MEP Roberta Metsola said she was on lockdown and Maltese journalists and her assistants were safe.
Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, also located in Strasbourg, advised “all staff and visitors to stay at home or indoors”.
French president Emmanuel Macron is being kept informed of the situation and is sending his interior minister, Christophe Castaner, to the eastern French city, an Elysee palace official said.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said his thoughts are with the victims
James Francy, an adviser to an MEP, told Sky News: “I’ve seen two injured people who’ve just been taken away by medical services.
“Police and military are telling people to stay inside.
“This part of town was teaming with people at the time.”
The Police informed me tonight of a shooting in Strasbourg with possibly one victim and several wounded. The perpetrator is still on the run. This is a serious incident and I advise all staff and visitors to stay at home or indoors for the moment.
— Thorbjørn Jagland (@TJagland) December 11, 2018
Sky News’ Europe correspondent Mark Stone, who was at the market last night, said there was no security around the market, compared to two years ago when there was airport-style security to get onto the island where the market is.
Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe, with 300 wooden stalls set up in the city’s historic centre from 23 November to Christmas Eve.
France remains on high alert following a series of Islamic State inspired attacks in 2015 and 2016, which killed more than 200 people.