Police in Strasbourg have shot dead the gunman who went on the rampage in the eastern French city’s Christmas market on Tuesday night.
Christophe Castaner, the French interior minister, said Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, was killed in a gunfight in Neudorf, the same suburb where he was last seen on the evening he killed three people and wounded 12 others.
Sources close to the investigation said police had acted on a tip-off from a woman who had crossed the suspect on Thursday afternoon and contacted the police after noticing he was wounded.
Speaking at the scene, Mr Castaner said a special ground unit of three police officers saw a man fitting the suspect’s description walking down the road at 9pm.
"They called to him and at that moment, he turned to face the officers and opened fire. So they immediately riposted and neutralised the assailant,” he said.
"My thoughts are with the victims, the wounded, and their loved ones. I am thinking of the security forces who were deployed. I am proud of you," he added.
Emmanuel Georg of the SPG police union said that while officers suspected he was in the area, they said it was “chance that a team came face to face with him” when he emerged from a building.
Locals and bystanders at the scene cheered and shouted “bravo” to police.
Roland Ries, the mayor of Strasbourg, said the neutralisation was "good news" and would help the city return to "normal life”. Visited by two million every year, Strasbourg’s Christmas market will be open to the public once again on Friday after being shut since the attack.
French President Emmanuel Macron thanked security forces in a tweet and vowed: "Our commitment against terrorism is total."
He earlier expressed "the solidarity of the whole country" towards the victims.
"It is not only France that has been hit… but a great European city as well," he added, referring to the seat of the European parliament in the eastern French city that lies on the border with Germany.
The Islamic State’s propaganda agency claimed the slain gunman was one of its “soldiers”, though experts said this was likely opportunistic.
More than 700 French security forces had been trying to trace Mr Chekatt since the bloodshed on Tuesday, when he is suspected of shooting and stabbing shoppers at the city’s popular annual market.
The fugitive Strasbourg gunman had an Osama bin Laden poster in his prison cell a decade ago and said he shot victims at point-blank range to "avenge brothers in Syria" and to kill "infidels", French reports said on Thursday.
The police raid followed the declaration of French authorities that they would take Mr Chekatt dead or alive and brought to an end a massive manhunt in Strasbourg and the surrounding region, as well as across the nearby border with Germany.
France had earlier issued a wanted poster of the 29-year-old local who has 27 previous convictions for theft and armed robbery and served sentences in French, German and Swiss jails.
The poster of Chekatt, who was wounded in an exchange of fire with security forces, included the warning: "Individual dangerous, above all do not intervene."
The photo shows a bearded man of North African descent with a blemish on his forehead due to frequent prayer.
At least five of the victims of his Tuesday night killing spree remain in a serious condition.
The third fatality, Afghan national Kamal Naghchband, died from a gunshot wound to the head he sustained while holding his young son in his arms. The 45-year-old, who fled the Taliban for 15 years before obtaining asylum, had been in a coma since the shooting.
Witnesses told investigators that Chekatt had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) as he opened fire on the Christmas market shortly before 8pm on Tuesday night.
Chekatt was placed on a terror watch list in 2015 and had been monitored closely in recent months. However, according to Le Monde, he had slapped a picture of late al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on his prison wall as early as 2008, when he was 19 years old. “His radicalisation dates from before his time in prison,” a source close to the investigation told the paper.
Two years later, in 2010, he actively sought to proselytise other inmates and threatened them if they were not assiduous enough, it said.
He had been on a terror watch list and closely monitored for the past few months but authorities said there was nothing to suggest he was about to strike.
According to Le Parisien, he told a taxi driver he forced to drive him out of Strasbourg’s city centre on Tuesday at gunpoint that he had killed his victims at point blank range in the head to avenge “brothers in Syria” and to punish “infidels”.
The driver only escaped with his life because he had signs that he was a practising Muslim in the car.
Police n Thursday detained two of his sisters for questioning after bringing in his parents and two brothers, one of whom is on a terror watchlist.