The gunman who killed three people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg was shot dead by French police on Thursday as the Islamic State jihadist group claimed him as one of its “soldiers”. More than 700 French security forces had been hunting for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt since the bloodshed on Tuesday night — the latest in a string of jihadist attacks to rock France.Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said three police tried to question Chekatt after spotting him on the street in the Neudorf area of the northeastern French city where he grew up, but he opened fire. “They immediately returned fire and neutralised the assailant,” Castaner said.A source close to the investigation said a woman spotted a man fitting Chekatt’s description with a wounded arm on Thursday afternoon and alerted authorities, who sealed off the area and used a helicopter with thermal cameras to hunt for the suspect. People gathered at the police cordon where Chekatt was shot and applauded, some shouting “bravo!”, a source said.“It’s really a huge relief,” said Alain Fontanel, a local official in the mayor’s office, describing the anxiety that locals had felt since Tuesday’s attack. “We didn’t really feel very safe,” one 18-year-old local named Arthur told AFP.Watchlist The propaganda wing of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.The perpetrator of “the attack in the city of Strasbourg… is one of the soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition” against IS, the Amaq agency said in a message posted on Twitter. Chekatt, who lived in a rundown apartment block a short drive from the city centre, was flagged by French security forces in 2015 as a possible Islamic extremist. France has been hit by a wave of attacks from people claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda or IS since 2015, which have claimed the lives of nearly 250 people, according to an AFP toll.Published in Daily Times, December 15th 2018.