Police searched through eastern France on Wednesday for a man suspected of killing at least two people in a gun attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg and who was known to have been religiously radicalized while in jail.
Witnesses told investigators the assailant cried out “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater) as he launched his attack on the market, the Paris prosecutor said.
The prosecutor, Remy Heitz, also suggested the suspect may have chosen his target for its religious symbolism.
“Considering the target, his way of operating, his profile and the testimonies of those who heard him yell ‘Allahu Akbar’, the anti-terrorist police has been called into action,” Heitz told a news conference.
Police identified the suspect as Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29, who is on an intelligence services watch list as a potential security risk.
An investigation had been opened into alleged murder with terrorist intent and suspected ties to terrorist networks with intent to commit crimes, Heitz said.
Two people were killed and a third person was brain-dead and being kept alive on life support, he said. Six other victims were fighting for their lives.
France raised its security threat to the highest alert level, strengthening controls on its border with Germany as elite commandos backed by helicopters hunted for the suspect.