Still on the run, the author of the bloody attack on the Strasbourg Christmas market Tuesday night is a 29-year-old man, radicalized and with a long judicial history.
More than 700 police and gendarmes are mobilized Wednesday to find this Strasbourg who has “sown terror” in the words of the Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner, shooting with the automatic pistol on several people in the center of the Alsatian capital, around 20H . The man was wounded by Operation Sentinel soldiers before fleeing.
According to the photo of the search post launched by the police, the suspect, Cherif Chekatt, has dark eyes and black hair, thick eyebrows, short beard and a black mark on his forehead.
“He was not thoroughly in Islam,” said 22-year-old Zach, who lives in the same small city of HLM bars in the suburbs of Strasbourg. This neighbor describes a man “discreet, not barracked”, who lived alone in a small apartment. His parents also live in the neighborhood, he says.
Radicalization in prison
Born in Strasbourg in 1989, he is registered “S” (for state security) by the antiterrorist services, after a passage in prison from 2013 to 2015 during which he drew the attention of the intelligence services for violence for the radicalization of his religious practice and his proselytism. He was followed for that since his release from prison.
The man is “known since alas very long in common law,” said Mr. Castaner Wednesday during questions to the government in the National Assembly.
“At the age of 10, he had a behavior that was already criminal, he had his first convictions at age 13. He was the subject of 67 registrations for various interventions and behaviors that were systematically marked by violence” .
If he has a “big enough” record for violence, theft, destruction, in France and Germany where he was also imprisoned, this “radicalized” has “never been known for terrorism-related crimes”. Secretary of State for the Interior Laurent Nuñez insisted on France Inter, denying that he tried to go to Syria.
Witnesses heard him “shout Allah Akbar” on Tuesday night, said Wednesday the Paris prosecutor, Remy Heitz. In view of these testimonies, “the targeted location, the mode of operation employed by the attacker and his profile”, the antiterrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office seized the facts Tuesday night, said the head of the antiterrorist prosecution during a press conference in Strasbourg.
In prison, the man “incited to the practice of the religion in a radical form, but nothing made it possible to detect a passage to the act in his current life”, he added.
On her prison path, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told Public Sénat that he had “carried out in France two prison terms of two years each, which he had served”. “He was released (from prison) three years ago, from his last conviction,” she added.
Before the attack on Tuesday, the fugitive was already wanted in a case of armed robbery with “his gang of thugs”, “which would have gone wrong” in August, with an attempt of homicide, according to a source close.
He was supposed to be arrested early Tuesday morning by the gendarmes and officials of the DGSI but the man was not at home. A grenade and a pistol were found at his home.