The attack on the Christmas market in France's eastern city of Strasbourg has increased security concerns with the French Interior Ministry cancelling public protests.

What has happened?

A gunman killed three people and wounded 13 at the Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday evening. The suspect fled the scene wounded by French security forces and is alleged to be a criminal who has been convicted 27 times in France, Germany and Switzerland and had spent several stints in prison, according to the Paris public prosecutor. 

He is known to the police, but his motives are so far not clear.

The French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, said the shooter had evaded a police dragnet and was on the run with a car he had forcibly taken from a taxi driver, raising concerns of a follow-up attack.

“The government has raised its security threat to the highest level and is bolstering border controls,” Castaner told a late-night news conference. “We will also reinforce security at all Christmas markets to prevent copycat attacks.”

The French President Emmanuel Macron has been facing weeks of protests by the Yellow Vest movement that threaten his rule 18-month-old rule tweeted his condolences to the families of the dead and wounded.

Meanwhile, the German-French border has been closed due to its proximity to the city of Strasbourg. There is a fear that the suspect may try to cross the border and flee to Germany.

Christmas markets in France, Belgium and Germany have seen increased security to prevent a similar attack.

Demonstrations or meetings of any kind are prohibited in France until further notice by the Interior Ministry.

A French soldier stands guard near a closed wooden barrack shop at the traditional Christkindelsmaerik (Christ Child market) in front of the Cathedral the day after a shooting in Strasbourg
A French soldier stands guard near a closed wooden barrack shop at the traditional Christkindelsmaerik (Christ Child market) in front of the Cathedral the day after a shooting in Strasbourg (Reuters)

The symbolic value of the attack

Christmas street markets are associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas day on December 25.

These markets are anchored in the religious traditions of Central and Western Europe and exceptionally vulnerable to attacks due to their open nature.

The Christmass markets attract thousands of people in both large cities and small towns because of their traditional nature and their colourful atmosphere during December. 

There was a similar attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016.

A man, later linked to Daesh, drove into the market in the German capital, resulting in 12 death and more than 56 people injured.

At the time the attack caused widespread fear with people avoiding the Christmass markets which was in turn capitalised on by the far right. 

Christmas Markets are not safe anymore” and should be avoided was a campaign initiated by right-wing populists politicians of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) for cheap propaganda against migrants and pro-migration policies. 

Any link to the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests

Many observers find it ominous that the attack occurred only three days after French President Emmanuel Macron made an official announcement to increase the minimum wage of French people by €100 per month from 2019.

A planned tax increase for low-income pensioners will be cancelled, overtime pay would no longer be taxed, and employers would be encouraged to pay a tax-free end of year bonus to employees. These were some of his promises given to every French citizen.

Many were wondering if the Yellow Vest protesters would be satisfied with the promises made by Macron. However, this massive popular movement had to be stopped due to security concerns and the vulnerability of dozens of thousands of people protesting all over the country.