Strasbourg Reopens Market After Terrorist Shot Dead

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) -
French special police forces secure an area during a police operation where the terrorist, Cherif Chekatt, who killed three people at a market in Strasbourg, was killed, in the Meinau district in Strasbourg, France, Thursday night. (Reuters/Christian Hartmann)

Strasbourg reopened the seasonal market under heavy security on Friday, the morning after French police shot dead the terrorist suspected for killing four people in the heart of the city.

Cherif Chekatt, 29, was killed in the Neudorf neighborhood of Strasbourg after firing on police, ending a two-day manhunt that involved more than 700 members of the security forces.

The fourth victim, an Italian national, was named on Friday.

The attack on the market evoked France’s difficulties in integrating western Europe’s largest Muslim minority and dealing with homegrown terrorists inspired by Islamic State.

On Friday, 29-year-old Italian journalist Antonio Megalizzi died as a result of the wounds he sustained in what Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said was indisputably an act of terrorism.

Ries expressed relief that Chekatt had been killed and said everyone in Strasbourg, on eastern France’s Rhine river border with Germany, felt the same.

French troops, who have been used to bolster national security since a wave of Islamic State-inspired attacks began in France in 2015, stood guard at the open-air market.

“I think it will help to get back to a life that I would describe as normal,” Ries told reporters. “With the death of this terrorist … citizens, like me, are relieved.”

Islamic State (IS) claimed Chekatt as one of its soldiers. It provided no evidence for the claim, which Interior Minister Christophe Castaner called “opportunistic.”

“Nothing indicates that [Chekatt] was part of a network. There is nothing to suggest that he was being protected by such, but the investigation is not yet over,” Castaner told Europe 1.

He said Chekatt’s Islamic beliefs were radicalized during time in prison. Police were still interrogating seven associates on Friday, including his parents, to determine whether he had accomplices.

France ramped up its security threat to its highest level after Chekatt struck late on Tuesday. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised an extra 1,800 troops would be put on patrols with a special focus on seasonal markets.

The Strasbourg shooting was the latest in a succession of attacks linked to Islamist terrorism in France going back to 2012. Since January 2015, more than 240 people have been killed in attacks on French soil, most of them in 2015-16.

On Friday morning, Castaner visited a Jewish cemetery in nearby Herrlisheim where 37 tombstones and a monument to Holocaust victims had been defaced with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti.