'There were gunshots and people running' – hunt for gunman as two dead and 11 injured in Christmas market shooting

A lone gunman shot dead at least two people and wounded 11 others near a Christmas market in the city of Strasbourg on Tuesday evening before fleeing, police said.

The motive was not immediately clear but, with France still on high alert after a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by Islamic State militants since early 2015, the counter-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the gunman was known to security services, and the local prefecture said he had previously been identified as a danger to security.

French prosecutors say a terror investigation has been opened into the shooting.

People in the city’s Neudorf area and Etoile park were told to stay where they were as officers hunted the shooter on the ground and from the air.

The European Parliament, which is sitting in Strasbourg this week, was put into lockdown.

“There were gunshots and people running everywhere,” one local shopkeeper told BFM TV. “It lasted about 10 minutes.”

The Christmas market was being held amid tight security this year, with unauthorised vehicles excluded from surrounding streets during opening hours and checkpoints set up on bridges and access points to search pedestrians’ bags.

A source at the prosecutor’s office said the motive for the shooting was not immediately clear.

A Reuters reporter was among 30 to 40 people being held in the basement of a supermarket for their own safety in central Strasbourg, waiting for police to clear the area. Lights were switched off and bottles of water handed out.

In a statement Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said: “Tonight’s shooting incident at the Christmas markets at Place Kleber in Strasbourg has shocked the city.

“I was in the city centre at the time and heard the gunfire and people, including young children, running away in panic.

“This incident has caused panic in the area with crowds of people out enjoying the Christmas markets.

“Details of the incident are still emerging but my thoughts are with those injured and all of those caught up in this incident.”

In 2016, a truck ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, killing more than 80, while in November 2015, coordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris claimed about 130 lives. There have also been attacks in Paris on a policeman on the Champs-Elysees avenue, the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store.

Almost exactly two years ago, a Tunisian Islamist rammed a hijacked truck into a Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 11 people as well as the driver.

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