STRASBOURG, FRANCE – More than 1,000 people gathered in Strasbourg Sunday to honour the victims of an attack on the city’s popular Christmas market that left five dead.
People, many in tears, gathered around a makeshift shrine of flowers and candles at the foot of the enormous Christmas tree at the Kleber Square in the city center.
“We wanted to be here to show that we are not giving up and that we continue to live,” Jonathan, 25, told AFP in the snow-covered square.
The ceremony, organized by local rights associations with the approval of the city authorities, included music, singing and several readings.
The traditional minute of silence was replaced by a minute of noise, during which people shouted and applauded to express their solidarity with the victims.
The crowd then spontaneously burst into a rendition of the Marseillaise, France’s national anthem.
“Fanaticism has struck right at the heart of Strasbourg, our open city, capital of human rights,” said Christine Panzer, co-organizer of the gathering.
“We reject all hate speech in the fight against dark forces.”
Authorities confirmed Sunday evening that a fifth victim, a 36-year-old Polish national living in Strasbourg, had died from wounds sustained during Tuesday’s bloodbath carried out by Cherif Chekatt.
Chekatt — who was on a French list of possible extremist security risks — was shot dead by police on Thursday after a manhunt that involved more than 700 members of the security forces.
The 29-year-old native of the city attacked Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday armed with a gun and a knife.
France’s interior minister on Friday dismissed a claim by the Islamic State group that it was responsible for the attack.
Police have been focusing their investigation on whether Chekatt had any help in carrying out his attack or during the two days he was on the run.
Earlier Sunday, police in the eastern French city, which is home to the European Parliament, released two of Chekatt’s close associates.
With the release Saturday of his parents and two of his brothers, that leaves only one person of the seven originally detained still in custody.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5