News World Italian radio journalist fourth victim of Christmas market terror attack in Strasbourg

Italian radio journalist fourth victim of Christmas market terror attack in Strasbourg

French President Emmanuel Macron pays tribute at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Christmas market shooting. Photo: AAP
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A young Italian radio journalist has died from gunshot wounds after the Strasbourg Christmas market terror attack earlier this week.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, Antonio Megalizzi, 29, was shot in the head and “had been fighting” for his life after a gunman opened fire on Tuesday, killing three others and wounding another 11 people.

“This news saddens me a great deal,” Premier Giuseppe Conte told a news conference following this week’s European summit.

“Affectionate, emotional thoughts go to his girlfriend. We must unite in this pain”.

“[He was] a young man with great passion for journalism, for radio, for investigations and for European institutions.”

Europhonica radio tweeted that “sadly we have to confirm that our colleague Antonio has left us.” Photo: Facebook

The gunman, identified as Cherif Chekatt, 29, was killed 48 hours later on Thursday in the Neudorf neighbourhood of Strasbourg after firing on police, ending a two-day manhunt that involved more than 700 members of the security forces.

The city’s traditional Christmas market was reopened under heavy security on Saturday (Friday local time).

Stall-holder Bernard Kuntz said the market was reopening just in time for struggling business owners.

“We were getting worried. Some of the guys have taken out loans to be here, and we’ve already lost two days,” he said.

Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said the attack was indisputably an act of terrorism.

Strasbourg’s cherished Christmas market is a target full of religious symbolism, and the killings have evoked France’s difficulties in integrating western Europe’s largest Muslim minority and dealing with homegrown militants inspired by Islamic State.

Mayor Ries expressed relief that Chekatt had been killed and said everyone in Strasbourg, on eastern France’s Rhine river border with Germany, felt the same.

The Strasbourg market attracts two million visitors every year. Photo: AAP

French troops, who have been used to bolster national security since a wave of Islamic State-inspired attacks began in France in 2015, stood guard at the open-air market.

“I think it will help to get back to a life that I would describe as normal,” Mayor Ries told reporters after the news that Chekatt had been killed.

“With the death of this terrorist … citizens, like me, are relieved.”

Islamic State claimed Chekatt as one of its soldiers, saying he carried out the operation in response to calls for citizens of coalition countries that are fighting the militant group.

IS provided no evidence for the claim and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner called it “opportunistic”.

“Nothing indicates that (Chekatt) was part of a network. There is nothing to suggest that he was being protected by such, but the investigation is not yet over,” Mr Castaner told Europe 1.

He described Chekatt as a long-time delinquent whose Islamic beliefs were radicalised during previous periods in prison.

Police were still interrogating seven associates on Saturday (Friday local time), including Chekatt’s parents, to determine whether he had accomplices.

Terror level at highest level

France ramped up its security threat to its highest level after Chekatt struck late on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised an extra 1800 troops would be put on patrols with a special focus on Christmas markets.

The outdoor market in Strasbourg, centred around a towering Christmas Tree in Place Kleber, draws more than 2 million visitors each year and has been a feature of the Alsatian city since the early 15th century.

The Strasbourg shooting was the latest in a succession of attacks linked to Islamist militancy in France going back to 2012.

Since January 2015, more than 240 people have been killed in attacks on French soil, most of them in 2015-16.

-with agencies