Two people have died and 12 have been injured after a gunman opened fire with an automatic handgun close to a Christmas market in Strasbourg, French authorities have said.
Six of the 12 people were seriously wounded in the attack, ‘three of four’ of whom may have life-threatening injuries, according to town mayor Roland Ries.
The shooting took place close to the historic Christmas market in Strasbourg’s central square Place Kleber.
Police have announced they know the identity of the gunman, who has a criminal record and was a designated ‘threat to the state’ on a security services watchlist.
He fled the scene after a shootout with police, having previously been wounded by a soldier close to the scene. He is understood to have been cornered by police in the Neudorf district.
It is not yet clear if the market was the target of the attack or if there was any link to terrorism. The alleged killer was identified following DNA tests and the examination of CCTV images.
People on the floor can be seen wrapped in blankets following the shooting which took place close to the Christmas market
An emergency worker was pictured running with a stretcher towards the scene of the shooting near the Christmas market in Strasbourg
The map above shows the area where the attack took place. The French city of Strasbourg is on the German border
He had been sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 following a knife attack on a 16-year-old, according to an investigating source.
Police said they were investigating a possible motive of terrorism for the shooting and that a special anti-terrorism prosecutor was assessing the situation. French newspapers have reported that the suspect is a 29-year-old male who was said to be ‘known to authorities’.
The man was holed-up in a flat in Rue d’Epinal, in the Neudorf district, as raid police surrounded the building.
Basketball supporters were held up at the Rhenus Sport stadium in Strasbourg, eastern France following the shooting
A spokesman for Paris prosecutors said: ‘An investigation has been opened for assassinations and attempted assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise, and for criminal conspiracy.’
The spokesman said online groups linked to Islamic State were ‘celebrating the attacks’, but no terrorist group had yet claimed responsibility.
He was on a ‘S’ for Security List, meaning he was a danger to national security, and is believed to have been ‘radicalised’, according to Interior Ministry sources.
‘He began shooting on Rue des Orfevres, close to a Christmas Market in the city at around 8pm,’ said a spokesman for the local police department.
Security forces have secured the surrounding areas of the Christmas market and the shooter has now been identified
‘The opening shots wounded a number of people, and there were fatalities. The shooter was quickly identified, and police gave chase.
‘He was wounded in a subsequent gunfight. Soldiers are involved in trying to bring him into custody.’
Le Figaro has reported that the suspect was due to be arrested on Tuesday morning for a previous robbery, but was not at home when police arrived to arrest him.
The French Interior Ministry has called on the public to remain indoors following the shooting.
Security officials have cordoned off the area and trams have now stopped running.
Police patrolled the streets after the gunman was cornered by police officers following a chase
The French Interior Ministry has called on the public to remain indoors following the shooting at the Christmas market
Local authorities in the Grand-Est and Bas-Rhin have advised the public to ‘avoid the area of the police station,’ which is close to the city’s Christmas market.
Restaurants in the area have locked their doors and are not letting people out.
The Strasbourg-based European Parliament was on lockdown after reports of the shooting emerged, with MEPs, staff and journalists unable to leave the building.
French emergency vehicles entered the shooting site at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, which has left four people dead
The parliament is currently in a session of conference which all members are obliged to attend, with hundreds of MEPs and officials having made the monthly visit to Strasbourg from Brussels.
The European Parliament building is around two miles from the centre of Strasbourg.
French President Emmanuel Macron is being kept informed of unfolding events, according to his office.
Macron is said to have cut a meeting short after being informed of the situation and is sending his interior minister, Christophe Castaner to the French city, officials at the Elysee palace have said.
Emergency service teams standing in the Neudorf area following the shooting, which has left eleven people critically injured
A French police van rushed next to the shooting site at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, the gunman has been on the run all evening
Staff at the European Parliament building (above) wait to receive news on when they can leave the building after police launched a manhunt for the suspect
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has paid tribute to the victims and condemned the attack in Strasbourg, which he called ‘a town which symbolises European democracy’.
Elsewhere, one witness, Doris Manou, told the BBC: ‘Earlier on I was walking around the Christmas market in central Strasbourg and I passed Place Kleber where the shooting took place just minutes before it happened.
‘Then I continued walking on Rue du Dome when I saw the army with a group of 10-12 soldiers walking towards me with their guns pointed to the street and around them everyone was running from all directions.
Rescue workers have been out helping people on the streets of Strasbourg after the shooting broke out
Images showed people running away from the square where the shots were fired and army officials soon swooped the streets
Local authorities had advised residents to stay indoors and avoid the area close to the police station in the city
‘The soldiers were very focused on their mission, they were running.’
She said she and several others then threw themselves to the floor in a courtyard of a building thinking there could be a bomb, before some students in a nearby building offered them refuge.
Deputy Mayor of the city, Alain Fontanel tweeted: ‘Thanks to all for staying at home until the situation has been clarified’.
Police, firefighters and emergency services intervened after the shooting and the streets appeared clear of tourists
The entrance to the Christmas market in Strasbourg (pictured above) which is a popular tourist destination in the winter
Officers have secured the area surrounding the Christmas market following the shooting which took place early evening on Tuesday 11 December
Local residents also reported hearing gunfire in some parts of the city centre.
Sinn Fein politician Martina Anderson, a Member of the European Parliament representing Northern Ireland, tweeted: ‘We were in the centre of Strasbourg town when gun shots went off.’ She added: ‘My thoughts & prayers with all who are injured.’
Pedestrians gathered in the square, close to where the shooting took place around the Christmas Tree
Video images from the scene show people outside of cosmetics store Kiko following the shooting
A police officer is seen securing the street surrounding the area following the shooting where the gunman had been shot by a soldier
Yorkshire and Humber MEP Richard Corbett also added on Twitter that he was in a restaurant in the city ‘where shots (were) fired’. He said the restaurant was ‘not letting anyone in or out’.
Earlier in the evening, Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, tweeted: ‘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.’
Emergency services on the scene in Strasbourg, France, following the incident where four people have died
Deputy mayor of the city, Alain Fontanel tweeted: ‘ Thanks to all for staying at home until the situation has been clarified’
The French military (above) has now been called in to patrol the streets surrounding the Christmas market
The Director General for Communication and Spokesperson of the European Parliament Jaume Duch, tweeted that MPs and staff had received text messages and emails to indicate their safety.
France remains on high alert after suffering a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by Islamic State militants in 2015 and 2016, which killed more than 200 people.
Year on year, the Christmas market, which is located close to the Cathedral, is said to attract millions of tourists from across Europe and the rest of the world.
A police car is seen stationed outside of the Christmas market as well as officers on mopeds
Sinn Fein politician Martina Anderson, a Member of the European Parliament representing Northern Ireland, tweeted: ‘We were in the centre of Strasbourg town when gun shots went off.’
The surrounding streets close to the Christmas market seem to be lined with emergency services
The market has more than 300 stalls, strips of fairy lights, a huge Christmas Tree as well as various shows and concerts being put on throughout the festive period.
Strasbourg Christmas market is one of the oldest in Europe with 300 wooden chalets set up in the city’s historic centre from November 23 to Christmas Eve.
One of the biggest Christmas trees in Europe is put up in Place Kleber, the largest square in the city, which was named after French general Jean-Baptiste Kleber who was born in Strasbourg in 1753.
Jaume Duch is the Director General for Communication and Spokesperson of the European Parliament
The European Parliament site in Strasbourg (pictured above) was put on lock down following the incident
Images show armed police on the scene at the Christmas market in Strasbourg