The Frenchman still on the run after killing three and injuring 12 at Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday night is known to Swiss police and spent several months in a Basel jail for burglary and theft with some violence, according to a police spokeswoman.
“But he wasn’t at all known as a terrorist,” Cathy Maret told Swiss public broadcaster, RTS, on Wednesday. She said Switzerland had stepped up border security in the wake of the attack, and cantonal police have also stepped up security at Swiss Christmas markets.
French police have launched a big manhunt for the 29-year-old known as Chérif C. and are treating it as a terrorist attack. “Given the place targeted, the way the attacker behaved and the fact that witnesses heard him shouting ‘Allah Akbar’, the Paris anti-terrorist unit took over the case last night,” Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said at a press conference on Wednesday.
He said four people close to the suspect had been taken into provisional detention.
The suspect has been in prison several times for theft and violence in France but also in Germany and Switzerland, Heitz confirmed. He was known to French prison authorities for having been radicalized in jail.
The man opened fire on Tuesday evening at three points around the Christmas market in the historic centre of Strasbourg in France, and also used a knife to kill and injure, Heitz told the press.