Strasbourg gunman cried ‘Allahu Akbar,’ prosecutor says

(CNN) — A gunman who opened fire near a popular Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg shouted the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is greater,” at the time of the attack and was also carrying a knife, a Paris prosecutor said Wednesday.

The suspect, identified as Cherif C, born February 24, 1989, killed two people and left one on life support with no chance of recovery, said Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz. Police had previously said three people were killed and 13 injured in the attack Tuesday.

The gunman – who remains on the run – has an extensive criminal background that includes 27 convictions in France, Germany, and Switzerland, said Heitz, mainly for acts of robbery and violence.

More than 350 police gendarmes and soldiers supported by air units have been mobilized to find the suspect, who was already known to security services as a possible threat, police said.

The attack prompted France to raise its national security threat level to its highest “emergency terror attack” status, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said at a news conference.

“What happened last night is unquestionably an attack, a form of terrorist attack,” Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries told CNN by phone.

A curfew in the eastern French city, which lies on the border with Germany, was lifted overnight but law enforcement urged everyone to remain vigilant. Border security has been tightened, authorities said.

Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez earlier told Inter radio station that authorities could not confirm that the suspect had “terrorist motivations.”

Nunez added that while authorities had secured the border and set up a perimeter around Strasbourg, they are unsure if the suspect is still in France.

Strasbourg’s famed Christmas Market is one of the oldest in Europe and draws millions of visitors each year. The suspect entered the perimeter of the market by the city’s Corbeau Bridge, and began shooting at passers-by on the Rue des Orfèvres at 8 p.m. local time, when many were in the middle of their Christmas shopping.

Anti-terror police descended on the market and attempted to apprehend the suspect, who exchanged fire with security forces on at least two occasions between 8:20 p.m. and 9 p.m. Strasbourg police confirmed that the gunman was injured in one of the exchanges. He is then believed to have jumped into a taxi and fled the scene.

Eight people were seriously wounded, Strasbourg police said Wednesday, with five others suffering from minor injuries.

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