At least three people were killed and 14 leven others injured in shootout near a world-famous Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg.
Police officials have launched manhunt to nab the suspected gunman.
French prosecutors said a terrorism investigation was opened, though authorities did not announce a motive for the bloodshed. The city is home to the European Parliament, which was locked down after the shooting.
It was unclear if the market — which was the nucleus of an al-Qaida-linked plot in 2000 — was targeted. The prefect of the Strasbourg region said the suspect was previously flagged as a possible extremist.
The gunman has been identified and has a criminal record, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
French military spokesman Col. Patrik Steiger said the shooter did not aim for the soldiers patrolling in and around the Christmas market but targeted civilians instead.
Several of the people wounded were in critical condition, the interior minister said.
The latest terror attack falls in the line of the several high-profile extremist attacks that have rocked France including the coordinated attacks at multiple Paris locations that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds in November 2015.
President Emmanuel Macron adjourned a meeting at the presidential palace Tuesday night to monitor the emergency, his office said, indicating the gravity of the attack.
Castaner and the Paris prosecutor, who is in charge of anti-terror probes in France, headed to Strasbourg. The prosecutor’s office said the investigation was being conducted on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise charges, suggesting officials think the alleged shooter may have links to extremists.
In multiple neighborhoods of Strasbourg, the French Interior Ministry urged the public to remain indoors. Local authorities tweeted for the public to “avoid the area of the police station,” which is close to the city’s Christmas market.
Strasbourg’s well-known market is set up around the city’s cathedral during the Christmas season and is a popular gathering place.
French soldiers were on patrol after the shooting. At the scene, police officers, police vehicles and barricades surrounded the sparkling lights of the market.
“Our security and rescue services are mobilized,” Castaner said.
European Parliament spokesman Jaume Duch said that “the European Parliament has been closed and no one can leave until further notice.” It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were inside.
The attack revived memories of a new millennium terror plot targeting Strasbourg’s Christmas market. Ten suspected Islamic militants were convicted and sentenced to prison in December 2004 for their role in a plot to blow up the market on the New Year’s Eve ushering in 2000.
The Algerian and French-Algerian suspects — including an alleged associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden — went on trial in October on charges they were involved in the foiled plot for the attack.
They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to nine years.
Meanwhile, a senior French government official said that five people have been detained as police hunt for the man who attacked the Strasbourg Christmas market.
Laurent Nunez, secretary of state for the interior ministry, said Wednesday on France-Inter radio that the attacker could have fled to neighbouring Germany.
He said that three people were killed and 13 injured, eight of them seriously. He denied reports of a police intervention at the city’s famed cathedral but said the search for the attacker is constantly evolving.
Nunez said the assailant had been identified as a suspected extremist during his past stays in prison but said the motive for the attack remains unclear. A terrorism investigation was opened.
(With AP inputs)