French police identified the suspected Strasbourg gunman because he fled the shooting scene in a taxi and bragged to the driver about his attack

  • The Strasbourg shooter jumped in a taxi after his alleged attack and the bragged to the driver about it, French authorities said Wednesday.
  • The suspected gunman has been identified as 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, who was known to French police and evaded arrest in an unrelated investigation on the morning of the attack.
  • The taxi driver’s account of his exchange with Chekatt helped police to identify him as a suspect, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz told media Wednesday.
  • Authorities are investigating the shooting as an act of terror and have launched a nationwide manhunt for Chekatt, but they conceded it was possible he’s already left the country.

The suspected gunman who shot dead two people, injured more than a dozen others, and launched a nationwide manhunt in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday evening fled the scene in a taxi – then bragged about the massacre to the driver.

Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz told media that 29-year-old Chérif Chekatt, a Strasbourg native, has been identified as the suspect in the shooting, which is being investigated as an act of terror.

Police said Chekatt was armed with a handgun and a knife when he opened fire on a Christmas market in Strasbourg. He allegedly yelled “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is great” – and exchanged gunfire with security forces.

Read more: At least 2 dead, 12 wounded in Strasbourg Christmas market shooting; France confirms terror motive

Chekatt then took an injury to the arm and jumped in a taxi for a 10-minute ride to the Neudorf district, Heitz said.

When the taxi driver noticed Chekatt’s injury and the handgun he was carrying, Chekatt confessed to the attack and tried to justify it, Heitz added.

“To explain his injuries, the individual told of what he had done in the center of Strasbourg by saying he had shot at soldiers and killed 10 people,” Heitz said, according to The Guardian. “The taxi driver said the individual made statements justifying what he claimed he had done.”

The information from the taxi driver helped police identify Chekatt, Heitz added.

‘Radicalization and his proselytizing attitude’

Heitz said Chekatt was well-known to authorities before Tuesday’s attack, and had racked up 27 convictions across France, Germany, and Switzerland for violent crimes and thefts.

“He had been incarcerated multiple times and was known to the prison administration for his radicalization and his proselytizing attitude,” Heitz said, according to The New York Times.

French security services had also flagged Chekatt on the country’s “Fiche S” or “S File” database, which lists some 20,000 people suspected of radicalization or posing a national-security risk.

Earlier on Tuesday, police had attempted to arrest Chekatt as part of an unrelated murder investigation, according to Laurent Nuñez, the secretary of state for France’s interior ministry. Police even searched Chekatt’s apartment and found a defensive grenade, a rifle, ammunition, and knives.

But Nuñez said Chekatt evaded arrest that morning, and went on to allegedly attack the Christmas market. Authorities have arrested four people associated with Chekatt.

The manhunt for Chekatt continued into Wednesday, and Nuñez told media that authorities cannot rule out the possibility that Chekatt may have escaped the country.

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