TRT World spoke to a man who's known alleged attacker Cherif Chekatt since childhood and insists he is not a terrorist. The 29-year-old has a long history of run-ins with the law.

French police posted on their Police Nationale Twitter account on December 12, 2018 a call for information about Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, the day after a gun attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.
French police posted on their Police Nationale Twitter account on December 12, 2018 a call for information about Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, the day after a gun attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France. (Reuters)

French security forces were trying to catch the suspected Strasbourg gunman dead or alive, an official said Thursday, two days after an attack near the city's Christmas market.

Three people were killed in the attack and 13 others wounded, including five who are in serious condition, Strasbourg officials said.

More than 700 officers were involved in the manhunt for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, who had been flagged for extremism, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television.

French authorities said that the suspect, born in Strasbourg, had run-ins with police starting at age 10 and his first conviction was at age 13.

Chekatt had been convicted 27 times, mostly in France but also in Switzerland and Germany, for crimes including armed robbery. He had been flagged for extremism and was on a watch list.

However, one person who's known Chekatt since childhood says he was troubled, but he questions the official account of the attack. TRT World's Assed Baig has this exclusive report with 'Ali,' who asked not to be identified.

Terror investigation launched

Prosecutors have opened a terror investigation into Tuesday's attack.

Police have distributed a photo of Chekatt, who was wounded in an exchange of fire with security forces, with the warning: "Individual dangerous, above all do not intervene."

The government raised the terror alert level nationwide and deployed 1,800 additional soldiers across France to help patrol streets and secure crowded events.

Griveaux also called on the "yellow vest" protesters not to take to the streets, as some members of the movement have planned a fifth round of demonstrations on Saturday across France to demand tax relief.

Strasbourg was in mourning, with candles lit and flowers left at the site of the attack. The Christmas market was closed at least through Thursday, authorities said.

On Wednesday evening, people prayed and sang in the nearby Protestant Church Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune.

Pastor Philippe Eber said this is a moment "to think of those who died in this city because of violence. We also are thinking about all of those who weep for them, the families."

Strasbourg resident Tassia Konstantinidis said "it's important to have a period of mourning and to remember the victims."

Source: AP