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12 Dec, 2018 01:39

‘Total mobilization’: Strasbourg bans public demos amid massive manhunt for Christmas market gunman

‘Total mobilization’: Strasbourg bans public demos amid massive manhunt for Christmas market gunman

With a major operation underway to find the suspect, France has raised its threat level and introduced extra security and border controls, as well as a ban on public assemblies in Strasbourg, following the Christmas market attack.

The city of Strasbourg was subject to a “reinforced grid,” French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Tuesday night, hours after the attack on the market left two people dead and 14 others injured. “We are currently in a reinforced vigipirate stance,” he said, noting that demonstrations are now banned in the city to allow a “total” police mobilization to ensure public safety.

Also on rt.com Inevitable threat? Strasbourg gunman was on terror watch list, had grenades at home

Announcing that protests and public demonstrations have been temporarily banned in the city, the minister explained this would allow the police to “totally mobilize” to ensure public safety. 

"All assemblies, either stationary or as a march (cortege), are banned until the order is rescinded. Anyone in breach of the order will be subject to the penalties provided-for by law," Strasbourg authorities said in the official notice of the protest assembly ban, issued immediately after Castaner's statement.

Additional resources are being deployed to Strasbourg to help local units engage in a search for the suspect. More than 350 policemen and gendarmes were hunting down the attacker on Tuesday night. They were supported by helicopters and members of the RAID, the BRI and Opération Sentinelle forces, the minister said.

Castaner confirmed that the shooter had previously been placed on the ‘Fiche S’ list of potential security threats. The suspect, he said, was to be arrested Tuesday morning in relation to an attempted homicide but was not at home when the police units arrived to get him.

Also on rt.com Strasbourg shooting: 2 killed, 14 injured in terrorist attack on Christmas market (VIDEO)

The government raised France's national security alert threat (Vigipirate) to “emergency attack” level. As an additional security measure boost, Paris plans to allocate extra resources to reinforce border control and ensure extra protection at Christmas markets across France.

Tuesday's shooting comes at a time when French security forces are overstretched in dealing with the anti-government demonstrations that have gripped the country for weeks. Paris deployed some 90,000 police officers across the country last weekend to deal with the Yellow Vests rallies and, with authorities focused on containing violence at the weekly rallies, extremists like the Strasbourg shooter might try to exploit security holes, some security experts pointed out.

“The security forces have to be right 100 percent of the time and, remember, in France at the moment they are distracted with the Yellow Vest protests that are going on,” Philip Ingram, a former senior UK military intelligence officer, told RT.

Until the security forces can get control of the situation in Strasbourg, the city's mayor canceled all festivities, also closing down the iconic Christmas market.

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