Hundreds of police hunted Wednesday for a gunman who shot dead three people and wounded 13, eight seriously, at a famed Christmas market in Strasbourg, on the French border with Germany.
The attack took place Tuesday around 8 pm (1900 GMT) in the heart of the medieval city as the market was closing, sending crowds fleeing for safety.
Much of the center and the European parliament were on lock down through part of the night as hundreds of police and soldiers searched for the gunman who was reportedly armed with an automatic rifle and a knife.
“The attacker, who was on the S list (of extremists watched by police), is actively being hunted by security forces,” local officials said in a statement.
“350 policemen and gendarmes are still deployed on the ground,” backed up by helicopters, elite units and soldiers deployed as part of a long-term nationwide anti-terrorism operation, the statement said.
The government raised the security alert level for terrorism to its highest, reinforcing border controls and those around all Christmas markets across France.
However, a terrorist motive “has not yet been established,” deputy Interior minister Laurent Nunez told France Inter radio.
The gunman, who was being monitored for religious extremism, is “known for a number of criminal offences (…) but has never been linked to terrorist offences,” he said.