Focus on Yellow Vests & ‘systemic’ security failures: What allowed Strasbourg gunman to escape?
The suspect, identified as Cherif Chekatt, 29, was repeatedly convicted not only in France but also in Germany and Switzerland over an array of offenses – and was also placed on a terror watch list – but still managed to somehow carry out his assault near one of Europe’s oldest and biggest Christmas markets and then escape unhindered.
While the fact that such a man was allowed to roam free without any proper oversight is quite astonishing in and of itself, it also apparently reveals some serious flaws within France’s security system, says geopolitical analyst and terrorism expert Alexandre Del Valle.
“He should have been detained,” Del Valle told RT. “This is just unbelievable that … this dangerous repeat offender was not under the strict control,” he added.
“We see a technological and an intelligence failure,” the analyst said, arguing that France has lost some very important instruments in fight against extremism and terrorism over the recent decades. The Central Directorate of General Intelligence – a security service, which was tasked with monitoring Islamists as well as various cults – was effectively abolished by the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who ordered it to be merged with another domestic intelligence agency.
“This was a grave mistake,” Del Valle believes, calling it a “systemic failure.” He pointed to the fact that terrorist attacks are often carried out by people who are well known to police due to their criminal past or radicalization, but who are still allowed to roam free.
The timing of the Tuesday attack may also have played a significant role. Gripped by massive protests against the tax policies and fuel price hikes, France deployed most of its law enforcement to tackle the rallies that at times spilled into bitter clashes between the demonstrators and police.
“The ongoing protests took away a lot of police resources, many police officers were diverted to calm down the protesters. That created some kind of a gap. The assailant might have thought that it was the best time to strike because … of an element of surprise,” David Otto, the director of Counter Terrorism and Organized Crime for Global Risk International Ltd, told RT.Also on rt.com Strasbourg attack not a govt conspiracy to undermine Yellow Vests – Interior Ministry official
The protests also partly coincided with the “Christmas time,” which is “dangerous” in terms of potential terrorist attacks in Europe, the expert said, explaining that extremists often seek to use any security gaps to assault “soft targets” – people visiting Christmas markets or attending any public events at this time.
However, the attacker might also have been “rattled” by a police raid on his apartment and rushed to implement his plot earlier than planned. “What we have seen in previous [similar] situations, particularly in case of people, [who commit terrorist attacks], that once their cover is blown, they tend to accelerate the process and carry out the attacks quicker than they planned to do,” Otto said.
Chekatt, a French national with North African roots, killed four people and injured several others in a Christmas market shooting in Strasbourg. He is still on the run after fleeing the scene in what some reports said was a hijacked taxi. Some reports claimed that he was injured exchanging gunfire with French security forces as he fled the scene.