By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
NEW YORK — Government officials in France have declared the attack an act of terrorism and a manhunt is now underway for the 29-year-old suspect with a long criminal history.
A French Interior Ministry official, Laurent Nunez, said the attacker, identified as Cherif Chekkatt, had become radicalized during previous prison stints and was on a national security watch list as a potential threat.
At a press conference in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said witnesses recounted the attacker declaring, “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic.
The Strasbourg Christmas market attracts millions of tourists from around Europe to the medieval town along the border of France and Germany. The shops remained closed on Wednesday while investigations were underway.
The attack on Tuesday, however, was not the first of its kind.
In December 2016, a truck was intentionally driven into another Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, leaving 12 people dead and over 50 others injured.
In recent years, France has been the subject of numerous terrorist attacks, from the July 2016 attack in Nice, France where a driver drove a cargo truck into a crown celebrating the national holiday of Bastille Day, to the 2015 attacks where gunmen targeted a sports stadium, a concert hall, and Parisian restaurant, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in French history.
In the United States, President Donald Trump sought to use the attack to bolster his own efforts to tighten border security. On Wednesday, he took to Twitter to write: “Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!”
As of Wednesday, France remained on high terror alert.