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5 arrested as French police hunt gunman in attack that killed 2

By Nicholas Sakelaris
5 arrested as French police hunt gunman in attack that killed 2
Members of the French National Police BRI are seen during their search for a suspect Tuesday following a deadly shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France. Photo by Patrick Seeger/ EPA-EFE

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- French police arrested five people Wednesday in connection with a deadly shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg that killed 2 people and injured more than a dozen, authorities said.

The suspected gunman, identified as Cherif Chekatt, 29, is still on the run. Officials said Chekatt was already on a terrorist watch list and police had raided his house Tuesday in connection with a burglary investigation.

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Chekatt is accused of attacking a crowded Christmas market Tuesday. The death toll has been revised twice -- initially French authorities said 4 people died, then 3. Wednesday it lowered to 2. Of the 14 injured, at least six were seriously hurt.

Chekatt has known ties to extremist groups, officials said. At one point, there was a firefight between French soldiers and the suspect, who was shot but managed to escape, said France Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

RELATED Shooting near Strasbourg Christmas market leaves 4 dead, 11 injured

Chekatt is on the Fiche S list of people considered a threat to French national security.

The attack prompted France to raise its security level to "emergency attack," the highest of the three.

"It allows us to increase controls, put in place exceptional measures in terms of police deployment and carry out more systematic searches at train stations and airports," French police chief Sarah-Lou Cohen told BFMTV. "The objective is to put people out of harm's way. The gunman has committed an attack, he could commit another."

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An intense manhunt is underway with 350 people -- police, military troops and helicopter pilots -- searching for the unidentified suspect. Strasbourg is located a few miles from the France-Germany border.

Danish politician and member of European Parliament Morten Lokkegaard told Euronews that the EU Parliament was placed on lockdown.

Local schools are open Wednesday but parents can keep their children at home if they want, Castaner said.

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A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the United States condemned the attack and said, "our thoughts are with the family and friends of those affected."

The U.S. consulate is available to assist any American citizens.

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