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'Accomplice' of Strasbourg Christmas market gunman charged

Patrick Hertzog / AFP | French gendarmes walk past flowers and candles laid in tribute to the victims of a deadly shooting two days earlier, in Strasbourg, on December 13, 2018.

A French anti-terrorist court on Monday charged a man arrested for allegedly supplying a revolver used in a mass shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg last week, a judicial source said.

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The 37-year-old, who was not immediately identified, was ordered to be held in detention on charges of association with a terrorist conspiracy and weapons possession, the source said.

The man, initially arrested on Thursday, is suspected of helping to provide the pistol made at the end of the 19th century used by Cherif Chekatt who shot dead five people and wounded 11 at the market last Tuesday night.

Chekatt was shot and killed by police after a two-day manhunt in the city. The 29-year-old career criminal lived in a rundown apartment block a short drive from the city centre and was flagged by French security forces in 2015 as a possible Islamic extremist.

The alleged associate appeared before a judge in Paris, the prosecutors' office in the capital said.

Six other people detained in the wake of Tuesday's attack, including Chekatt's parents and two of his brothers, have been released without charge.

IS group claims dismisssed

The propaganda wing of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack, calling Chekatt one of its "soldiers" who had responded to its calls to target citizens of nations in the coalition fighting the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The group offered no evidence to support its claims and FRANCE 24's jihadism analyst Wassim Nasr said it is unlikely Chekatt received any material or organisational IS group support.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also said the post by the IS group's propaganda wing was "completely opportunistic".

Strasbourg shooter 'probably didn't have real organisational links with IS group'

Chekatt's father, Abdelkrim, told France 2 television Saturday night that his son believed the Islamic State "fought for a good cause".

"I always told him they were criminals," his father added.

Had his son hinted he intended to kill people, "I would have told police about him, so that he wouldn't have killed anyone, and wouldn't have gotten himself killed," he said.

Four of the five people killed in Tuesday's attack were foreigners or born abroad.

One was a 45-year-old Thai tourist, and another a 45-year-old Franco-Afghan garage owner who fled his country 20 years ago.

A 28-year-old Italian journalist, in town to cover the European parliament, was also shot and killed, as was a 36-year-old former Pole who had lived in Strasbourg for the past 20 years.

The dead also included a 61-year-old Frenchman who had just retired and was shot in the head as he stepped out of a restaurant.

Questions remain

Questions remain over how Chekatt was able to evade the tight security perimeter set up for an event long known to be a prime target for jihadist groups.

Around 500 police, security agents and soldiers controlled access on that horrific day at checkpoints on the bridges leading to the river island -- a UN World Heritage site -- that houses the famous market.

France has been on high alert since the start of a wave of jihadist attacks in 2015, which prompted a threefold surge in the security budget for the market to €1 million.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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