France — A man who had been flagged as a possible extremist sprayed gunfire near the city of Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market Tuesday, killing three people, wounding up to a dozen and sparking a massive manhunt. France immediately raised its terror alert level.
It was unclear if the market — a popular gathering place that was the nucleus of an al-Qaida-linked plot in 2000 — was the intended target. The assailant got inside a security zone around the venue and opened fire from there, Mayor Roland Ries said on BFM television.
Authorities did not give a motive for the shooting, though prosecutors said they had opened a terrorism investigation. Strasbourg, on France’s eastern border, is home to the European Parliament, one of several places that was locked down after the shooting.
Authorities said they had identified a suspect. The prefect of the Strasbourg region said the man was on a watch list of people who had potentially been radicalized.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who traveled to Strasbourg, said the suspect, not named, had been convicted in both France and Germany for crimes unrelated to terrorism and served time. He did not elaborate.
Hours before the shooting, French gendarmes went to the suspect’s home to arrest him, but he wasn’t there, Stephane Morisse of police union FGP said. They found explosive materials during a search, he said.