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22.11.2019 Europe

450-year-old Christmas market in Strasbourg opens, one year after terror attack

NOV 22, 2019 EUROPE

The French city of Strasbourg has opened its annual Christmas market with tightened security following last year's terror attack which claimed five lives. The town and its people say they won't let fear stop them continuing this 450-year old tradition.

For the next five weeks the eastern city of Strasbourg is France's capital of Noël with its traditional Christkindelsmärik Christmas market.

The huge Christmas tree now sparkles in Place Kléber and 300 wooden chalets are ready to serve mulled wine and soft drinks to the average two million visitors who flock each year.

It's one of the biggest events in the French region of Alsace.

On 11 December last year it was the scene of tragedy when a lone terrorist, Cherif Chekatt, armed with a knife and revolver murdered five people and wounded 11 others before he was shot by police after a two-day manhunt.

Security has been reinforced this year:  “More dynamic and better coordinated” according to the prefécture and Strasbourg City Hall. They recognise, however, that an open Christmas market can never be 100 percent secured. 

Police officers on patrol
Christophe Castaner, minister of the interior, visited Strasbourg on Friday for the opening. 

“We have no specific information, terror-related or otherwise, which would lead us to be worried about the Christmas market,” he told a local newspaper.

He invited people to be "vigilant, but calm and confident", and "to come and enjoy the festivities".

500 plain-clothed police officers will be circulating and bag-checks will be carried out at a variety of check-points leading into the town centre. 

Obstacles have been installed to reduce the risk of car-rams.

Residents say they are determined to make sure the market goes ahead as normal, as it has done since the year 1570.

“We think about the attack but it won't stop us,” a retired Strasbourg woman told AFP. “You have to go out and not give way to fear, otherwise they will have won.”

(with AFP)