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2 dead, 12 injured in Christmas market shooting

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A gunman killed at least two people and injured another 12 at the famed Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday before fleeing the scene , security officials said .Police launched a manhunt after the killer opened fire at around 8 pm local time ( 1900 GMT ) on one of the city ’ s busiest streets , sending crowds of evening shoppers fleeing for safety .

Soldiers patrolling the area as part of regular anti – terror operations exchanged fire with the suspect and injured him , but could not stop him escaping , police sources said .

The gunman has been identified and was on a watchlist of suspected extremists , a statement from local security services said .

Shortly after the shooting , lines of police vehicles and ambulances streamed into the market area, under festive lights declaring the city the “ capital of Christmas . ”

An AFP reporter saw paramedics load one victim into the back of an ambulance on a stretcher .

“ We heard several shots , three perhaps , and we saw people running, ” one witness told AFP afterwards , asking not to be named .

“ One of them fell down , I don’ t know whether it was because she was tripped up or if she was hit , ” the witness said .

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Police said six of the 12 injured were in critical condition .

Two separate security sources told AFP on condition of anonymity that the shooter was believed to be a 29 – year – old from the city who was set to be arrested on Tuesday morning.

He was being investigated over an attempted murder , one of the sources said .

Several areas neighbouring the Christmas market were sealed off on Tuesday night and residents were being told to stay indoors.

A police source , again speaking on condition of anonymity , said that security forces had opened fire in an area of the city where the suspect was thought to be hiding .

Specialised anti – terror prosecutors have opened an investigation into the incident in Strasbourg, which lies on the border of Germany .

– Tourist attraction –

The Strasbourg- based European Parliament was also on lockdown after reports of the shooting emerged , with MEPs , staff and journalists unable to leave the building , an AFP reporter said .

The parliament was in plenary session , with hundreds of MEPs and officials having made the monthly visit to Strasbourg from Brussels .

The Christmas market in Strasbourg and the city ’ s illuminations are an annual tourist attraction that draw hundreds of thousands of people .

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Security has been stepped up in recent years after a series of attacks in France by Islamist gunmen and the Strasbourg market was long considered a possible target .

In 2016 , a 23 – year -old Tunisian killed 12 and injured 48 others when he ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group .

( AFP )

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