Photo Credit: Police nationale de France
Cherif Chekatt

Cherif Chekatt, 29, has been identified as the suspected gunman in the Strasbourg shooting Tuesday night that left at least three people dead and a dozen others wounded, including eight in critical condition.

The government of France has raised its threat level in response to the attack; the Vigipirate national security alert system has increased to its highest level. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters that border security will be strengthened and raised to the “Emergency Attack” level to avoid the risk of a potential copycat shooting.

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Born to a family with Moroccan heritage in Strasbourg, Chekatt lived in the Poteries area of the city. He shouted “Allahu Akbar!” as he opened fire at a Christmas market in one of Strasbourg’s busiest central squares, according to a report by CBS News.

Chekatt is believed to have been radicalized while serving prison terms in France and Germany. He also appeared on the French intelligence watch list for jihadists.

Earlier in the day, police raided his home in Neudorf; Chekatt was not home, but the police found a fragmentation grenade, a loaded .22 long rifle, four knives (including two hunting knives) and ammunition in his apartment. French police were also attempting to arrest him on suspicion of murder at that time.

Chekatt was wounded in a shootout with French soldiers responding to the scene before fleeing in a hijacked taxi. Some 350 police officers were deployed to hunt him down. Currently he remains at large and considered armed and dangerous.

At least nine people were killed in an equally vicious radical Islamist truck-ramming attack carried out against a crowded Christmas market in west Berlin just two years ago.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.