Investigators looking into an attack that killed three people in Strasbourg were trying to establish whether the main suspect had help while on the run, as the French city tried to return to the small joys of the festive season with the reopening of its Christmas market on Friday.
Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz, who handles terror cases throughout France, told a news conference that seven people are in police custody, including four family members of Chérif Chekatt and two who were detained on Thursday night.
The 29-year-old was shot dead on Thursday during a police operation in the Neudorf neighbourhood of the city.
“We want to reconstruct the past 48 hours in order to find out whether he got some support,” Mr. Heitz said.
Mr. Chekatt was suspected of killing three people near Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday night. Mr. Heitz said that, in addition, “a fourth victim is brain dead. Among the 12 other wounded, there is one person in a life-threatening condition and four who remain hospitalized.”
It was the latest in a series of deadly attacks that have claimed more than 200 lives in France since 2015.
On Friday ,the Christmas market reopened for the first time since the attack, amid tight security. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner attended the reopening and had a stroll to meet with shopkeepers.
Access to the market has been reduced while extra police officers and military have been deployed to the site, in addition to private security guards.
“This Christmas market is part of our history. It’s part of our common events and belongs to all the French people,” Mr. Castaner said. “And this morning, we wanted to show, as we walked down the lanes, that we always know how to get our head up again.”
Mr. Heitz gave more details about the police operation that led to Mr. Chekatt’s death on Thursday evening after a two-day manhunt. He said the suspect was localized after police received two crucial tipoffs from Neudorf residents. Three officers patrolling in Neudorf ultimately spotted a man corresponding to the suspect’s description. He noticed their vehicle and tried unsuccessfully to enter a building. When police officers identified themselves, Mr. Chekatt turned around and opened fire.
“A projectile hit the vehicle above the left rear door, two police officers responded, shooting several times, and killed him,” Mr. Heitz said.
Investigators found a gun, a knife and ammunition on Mr. Chekatt’s body.
The immediate aftermath of the shootout between French security forces and the suspect was caught on camera from across the street, with video footage showing armed officers at the scene and the body of the man slumped in a doorway.
More officers arrive at the scene soon after, followed by crime scene investigators.
The Paris prosecutor’s office formally identified the man as Mr. Chekatt, a Strasbourg-born man with a long history of convictions for various crimes, including robberies. Mr. Chekatt also had been on a watch list of potential extremists. He had his first conviction at 13, and had 26 more by the time he died at the age of 29. He served jail time in France, Germany and Switzerland.
Witnesses said the gunman shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire from a security zone near the Christmas market on Tuesday. Security forces wounded the man in the arm but he managed to escape in a taxi.