At least two people were killed and several injured after a gunman opened fire Tuesday evening at the Christmas market in central Strasbourg, France, the seat of the European Parliament.
A third person was left brain-dead, and eight of the injured were seriously hurt, French officials confirmed Wednesday morning.
The French Interior Ministry had asked people in Strasbourg’s city center to seek shelter, and homes, restaurants, as well as the European Parliament were under lockdown for around five hours. The lockdown also included a local basketball stadium, where a game was underway. Video showed fans singing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” from the stands.
By 2 a.m. Wednesday, authorities began to evacuate people from the city center, and lockdowns were lifted. But the gunman remained at large, and a massive hunt was underway in France.
According to prefecture officials, the gunman was flagged on fiché S, the French terrorism watch list. He is a 29-year-old Strasbourg resident, and officials said he has a criminal record in France and Germany.
According to Le Point and the French television network BFM, police had searched his home Tuesday morning, but he wasn’t there. In the first hour after the shooting, officers in Strasbourg encountered him twice, exchanging fire, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
By early Wednesday, search teams had expanded to 350 people, including police and special forces. Extra law enforcement resources were expected to be deployed throughout France, in particular at Christmas markets and borders, Castaner said, and the nation’s terrorism threat level was raised to its highest level of emergency.
“All my thoughts obviously go with the victims and their loved ones,” he said. “All our security forces have been mobilized to neutralize the gunman.”
Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said the Christmas market would be closed on Wednesday. He also ordered flags to be lowered at half mast. French President Emmanuel Macron shared a message of solidarity with the victims and their families on Twitter.
Europe has enjoyed several months of relative quiet following years punctuated by large- and small-scale terror attacks that accompanied the rise of ISIS. The shooting Tuesday night conjured images of a truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin two years ago. That attack, carried out by a Tunisian who had been denied asylum in Germany, killed 13 people.
In 2015, seven attackers killed 130 people in and around Paris in coordinated attacks. The next year, a man drove a truck through Bastille Day crowds in Nice, killing 86 people.
The president of the European Parliament on Tuesday expressed his condolences and added that the governing body would not be intimidated by terrorism.
The death toll was revised to two on Wednesday morning, having previously been stated as three. It was announced that one person had been left brain-dead by the attack.