Father of Strasbourg attacker said his son backed Daesh

The Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, is the largest in France. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Father of Strasbourg attacker said his son backed Daesh

  • Shortly after Chekatt’s death, the Daesh group’s Amaq news agency claimed he was a “soldier” of the group
  • Chekatt had been on a French intelligence watch list for radicalism and was convicted 27 times for criminal offenses

PARIS: The man described as the father of the 29-year-old suspect in this week’s deadly Christmas market attack in Strasbourg says his son subscribed to the beliefs of the Daesh group.
The interview with Abdelkrim Chekatt by the state-run France 2 television channel was shown Saturday night, two days after the son was killed in a confrontation with three police officers in his childhood neighborhood in Strasbourg following a massive manhunt. Four people died in the Tuesday night attack. A dozen others were wounded.
The Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, is the largest in France. It reopened on Friday after being closed during the search for the suspect.
Chekatt said he had seen his son, Cherif Chekatt, three days before the attack but couldn’t contact him while he was on the run.
He acknowledged that his son backed the Daesh group.
“He’d say, for example, that Daesh, fights for the just cause and all that,” the red-bearded father said, using the common term in France and elsewhere for the Daesh group.
The interview, initially outdoors with the father, continued briefly inside with Cheriff Chekatt’s mother, Rouadja Rouag, who expressed shock and sorrow for the deaths. France 2 said the couple had been divorced for a long time.
Abdelkrim Chekatt, a French-Algerian, said he’d tried in the past to dissuade his son from backing the Islamic State, saying, “You don’t see the atrocities they commit.” The son would reply that “it’s not them,” the father said.
Shortly after Chekatt’s death, the Daesh group’s Amaq news agency claimed he was a “soldier” of the group. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner rejected the claim as “totally opportunistic.”
The father and mother and two siblings of the suspected killer were among seven people held for questioning. French media reported that the family members were released. The three others, still in custody, are unrelated but close to Chekatt.
The young Chekatt had been on a French intelligence watch list for radicalism and was convicted 27 times for criminal offenses — the first time at age 13 — mainly in France but also in Germany and Switzerland. Investigators are trying to determine whether he had accomplices or logistical support.
The father said he went to police of his own accord and on a suspicion the night of the son’s rampage with a handgun and a knife.
He said he told police that “if ever you locate Cherif, tell me. I’ll go to him and try to reason with him to give up.”
He also said that if his son had told him about a project to kill “I would have denounced him, and he wouldn’t have killed or been killed.”


At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

Updated 20 min 16 sec ago
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At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least three people have been killed and five others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands on Monday morning.

Dutch security forces were hunting for a 37-year-old Turkish man in connection with the incident, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack. The city's mayor confirmed the death of three people on Monday afternoon.

"At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously," Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said in a video statement on Twitter. The number of injured was later reduced to five.

"We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.

Police forces walk near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. (AFP/ANP)

Dozens of armed police plus canine units later surrounded a building a few hundred metres away, an AFP reporter at the scene said, but it was not clear if the gunman was inside.

Police said they believed a red Renault Clio had been carjacked around the time of the shooting and had been found abandoned later.

The Utrecht municipality said it advised "everyone to stay indoors until more is known, new incidents are not excluded," but this was withdrawn at around 4:30pm local time. The local hospital said it had set up a crisis centre. Tram traffic in the area was halted.

Emergency services stand at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. (AFP)

Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökmen Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Dutch anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 

“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 

Police spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 

“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)