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The silence at a Strasbourg, France Christmas Market was broken when a gunman opened fire into a crowd, killing two and injuring dozens more.
The mass shooting, which is one of many attacks that have occurred in France this year, appears to have been an act of terrorism according to French officials. The shooter has left two dead and dozens more injured, including one victim who has reportedly gone brain dead.
A manhunt for the suspect, who has been identified as 29-year-old Cherif Chekkat, is currently underway. According to NBC News, over 350 officers are involved in the search for the gunman.
The Suspect, Cherif Chekkat
So, who is Cherif Chekkat?
If anything is certain, Cherif Chekkat is no stranger to any criminal justice system in Europe. According to NBC, he previously had served jail time in Germany, France, and Switzerland for offenses that have yet to be named. He has 27 different criminal charges in multiple countries, and was released from prison in 2015.
According to the French news outlet France24, the first charge was in 1999 when Chekkat was just 10 years old. However, they still did not specify what the charges were for. The assailant had an obvious criminal history, although it is suggested he wasn't radicalized until just recently.
Based on my research, it is likely that Cherif Chekkat came into possession of his firearms in an illegal manner.
Chekkat's last sentence was served in a French prison, where he was reportedly radicalized. French officials were suspicious that he was a religious extremist, so intelligence agencies kept an eye on him. According to eyewitness accounts at the scene, Chekkat yelled "Allahu Akbar" before he fired into the crowd.
Based on this information, the French government has classified this as an act of terrorism.
According to the Paris public prosecutor, Remy Heitz, they have made four arrests in relation to the shooting. He also added that Cherif Chekkat was a prime suspect in two investigations into an assassination and burglary. In fact, hours before the shooting French officials raided his home. NBC reported that they found multiple illegal firearms and explosives, including grenades. They also reportedly arrested some of his family members in relation to the attack.
It is not clear if the individuals arrested were radicalized.
Now, a massive manhunt is underway to capture Cherif Chekkat.
According to The Washington Post, the gunman was wounded after exchanging fire with French police officers. He reportedly fled the scene on a taxi, although officials haven't specified if the driver was working with Chekkat or if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Luckily, if Chekkat is injured that means he may not last long. However, the longer he is out on the streets, the more dangerous he is.
The Telegraph reported that the suspect may have crossed into Germany, given the fact that Strasbourg is located on the border.
It is not clear if the suspect is still armed, or if he had more weapons stashed away in another location. It also is not clear if he has cooperated with any more individuals to carry out the attack.
At the moment, no terror organizations have claimed responsibility for the attack.
Many have cited this terror attack as an excuse for stronger border security, such as US President Donald J. Trump and his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. It is not explicitly clear whether or not border security played an important role in preventing the shooting, but Chekkat did move through various European countries where he was arrested on multiple charges.
According to France24, a Thai tourist was among one of those killed in the shooting. Italy also has claimed that a journalist who was reporting on parliament was injured during the shooting.
As for France, it is a time for them to unify. Following the Yellow Vest protests that called for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron, multiple French citizens were arrested, injured, and even killed. While there is no evidence that this terror attack was related to the protests, it is a sign that France needs to unify.
The protests are a different story for another day.
Not to mention, France has a violent history with terrorism. It has barely been three years since the Paris attacks that killed 137 people. It also has been asserted that Strasbourg, France's 'Christmas Capitol' had been targeted by terror acts before.
Regardless, the assailant is still on the lose.
Cherif Chekkat is still at large as hundreds of policemen search for him, and there is no sign that he will be found soon. This incident has done nothing but increase the international debate on gun violence, terrorism, and border security.
However, France cannot allow this act of inhumanity destroy their unity.