Cosby's lawyers cite grounds for appealing sexual assault conviction

Cosby’s lawyers cite grounds for appealing sexual assault conviction


(Reuters) – Attorneys for Bill Cosby outlined their grounds on Tuesday for appealing his sexual assault conviction, citing what they called errors in legal procedure that may have biased the jury and warrant a new trial for the once-beloved comedian.

FILE PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse after his first day of sentencing hearings in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

The 81-year-old performer, best known for his role as the lovable family man and physician on the hit television sitcom “The Cosby Show,” was found guilty by a Pennsylvania jury in April of drugging and sexually assaulting a onetime friend in 2004.

It marked the first such criminal conviction of a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement that has brought down dozens of powerful, privileged men in American media, politics and business since the autumn of 2017.

In September, the trial judge, Steven O’Neill, designated Cosby a “sexually violent predator” under Pennsylvania law, requiring the entertainer to register as a sex offender for life, and sentenced him to a term of three to 10 years in prison.

Cosby, who is married, has insisted all along that any sexual encounters he had were consensual. He was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

In an eight-page filing laying out the basis of their appeal, Cosby’s lawyers focused on several instances they said introduced bias into the trial, including the judge’s refusal to excuse a juror that the defense argued was unable to be fair and impartial.

The defense asserted that the juror in question had stated an inclination to believe Cosby guilty at the outset of the trial, and that fellow jurors were never interviewed to determine whether they had heard the comment or were swayed by it.

In addition, according to the filing, O’Neill failed to recuse himself or disclose a biased relationship with Bruce Castor, a former Montgomery County district attorney with whom defense lawyers said the judge had a confrontation.

Cosby’s lawyers have argued that Castor promised in 2005 that Cosby would not be prosecuted if he agreed to sit for a sworn deposition in a civil suit brought against him by his accuser, former Temple University administrator Andrea Constand.

That deposition, in which Cosby acknowledged giving sedatives called Quaaludes to young women for purposes of having sex with them, was unsealed a decade later, and Castor’s successor, District Attorney Kevin Steele, cited it as a crucial piece of evidence when criminal charges were brought.

The judge should not have allowed Cosby’s civil deposition testimony about Quaaludes to be introduced in his criminal trial, the defense said, arguing it was not relevant to Constand’s allegations and was highly prejudicial because it included statements regarding the illegal act of giving a narcotic to another person.

Cosby’s attorneys also faulted the judge for allowing prosecutors to call as witnesses other accusers whose allegations, the defense argued, were too remote in time and too dissimilar to Constand’s allegations.

Moreover, the defense asserted that a prosecution expert who testified relied on hearsay evidence of about 50 additional women who had leveled sexual misconduct allegations against Cosby.

Under the state’s appeals process, the trial judge will write an opinion by explaining his reasoning for the rulings the defense has challenged, and the matter will ultimately be decided by Pennsylvania’s appellate-level Superior Court.

A representative for the prosecution did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney



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White House delays new farm aid payments on China trade deal hopes: sources

Exclusive: White House delays new farm aid payments on China trade hopes – sources


WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The White House is delaying additional payments from a $12 billion aid package for farmers stung by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China because it expects Beijing to resume buying U.S. soybeans, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer harvests his field at his farm in Pecatonica, Illinois, U.S., July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

The move comes despite a lack of evidence in agricultural markets of any return by China to the U.S. soy market. China last year purchased about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports, but it has not inked any new soybean deals since Beijing imposed tariffs on U.S. supplies in July.

Trump told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday that discussions to resolve U.S. trade disputes with Beijing were taking place by telephone, and that China was “just starting” to buy “tremendous amounts” of U.S. soybeans.

The Office of Management and Budget at the White House is now holding up approval of the second and final tranche of aid payments Trump had promised farmers stung by the trade disputes due to concern over the cost of the program, and because it wants to see if the trade issues with China are resolved, the three sources told Reuters.

The sources asked not to be named because the matter had not yet been made public.

“It has been no secret that OMB has not been terribly excited about the trade aid package,” one of the sources said. The source added, however, that the payments will likely eventually be approved after some “back and forth.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in July had authorized up to $12 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers hit by the fallout from Trump’s escalating trade war with China and the agency outlined payments for the first half last August.

An announcement on the second tranche had been expected in early December. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Dec. 3 that OMB was deliberating on the second round of trade aid, and that it could be outlined by the end of that week.

On Tuesday, USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Reuters that the agency was still in the “final stages” of the process of approving the second tranche of payments.

“We are in discussions with the White House and anticipate that the second payment rates for the Market Facilitation Program will be published before the end of the year,” Murtaugh said in a statement.

The Office of Management and Budget declined to comment.

CHINA COMEBACK?

The sources said the White House was delaying its approval mainly on hopes China will soon resume purchases of soybeans, which has raised questions over how much aid farmers will need.

China had imposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in July in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Perdue said last week China will probably resume buying American soybeans around Jan. 1, after talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 meeting about a potential trade ceasefire.

However, little concrete evidence has emerged of a purchase looming and farmers have been on edge.

Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures edged higher on Tuesday on hopes that new deals would be inked soon, but there were no signs of increased activity in the cash markets.

U.S. Agriculture Department rules require exporters to promptly report sales of 100,000 tonnes or more of a commodity made in a single day.

John Heisdorffer, the chairman of the American Soybean Association and a farmer in Iowa, said he feared the government was going to reduce the size of the aid payments to farmers on misplaced beliefs the trade pain was ending.

“There are a lot of farmers that sold beans out of the field and that is done,” Heisdorffer said. “They need to get the extra (support) to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

Additional reporting by Chris Prentice and Tom Polansek in Chicago, writing by Chris Prentice; editing by Richard Valdmanis, Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker



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Trump says would intervene in arrest of Chinese executive

Trump says would intervene in arrest of Chinese executive


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene with the U.S. Justice Department in the case against a Chinese telecommunications executive if it would help secure a trade deal with Beijing.

U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland as White House Communications Director Bill Shine (R) looks on in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters in the Oval Office.

At the request of U.S. authorities, Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested earlier this month in Vancouver on charges of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The arrest came the same day Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a 90-day truce in their trade war during summit talks in Buenos Aires.

Trump, who wants China to open up its markets to more American-made products and stop what Washington calls the theft of intellectual property, said he had not yet spoken to Xi about the case against Huawei’s executive.

Meng, 46, faces U.S. accusations she misled multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions and incurring severe penalties, court documents said.

If extradited to the United States, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions. A Canadian court on Tuesday granted bail Meng while she awaits an extradition hearing.

Trump, who has made sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program a signature part of his foreign policy, was asked whether Meng could be released.

“Well, it’s possible that a lot of different things could happen. It’s also possible it will be a part of negotiations. But we’ll speak to the Justice Department, we’ll speak to them, we’ll get a lot of people involved,” he said.

Asked if he would like to see Meng extradited to the United States, Trump said he wanted to first see what the Chinese request. He added, however, that Huawei’s alleged practices are troubling.

“This has been a big problem that we’ve had in so many different ways with so many companies from China and from other places,” he said.

In the wake of his meeting with Xi in Buenos Aires, Trump said during the interview that trade talks with Beijing were underway by telephone, with more meetings likely among U.S. and Chinese officials.

He said the Chinese government was once again buying large quantities of U.S. soybeans, a reversal after China in July imposed tariffs on U.S. supplies of the oilseed in retaliation for U.S. duties on Chinese goods.

“I just heard today that they’re buying tremendous amounts of soybeans. They are starting, just starting now,” Trump said.

Commodity traders in Chicago, however, said they have seen no evidence of a resumption of soybean purchases by China, which last year bought about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports in deals valued at more than $12 billion.

Reporting By Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; editing by Kieran Murray and Paul Thomasch



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Canada court grants bail to Huawei CFO; Trump might intervene

Canada court grants bail to Huawei CFO; Trump might intervene


VANCOUVER/BEIJING (Reuters) – A top executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd wanted by the United States to answer to fraud accusations was granted C$10 million ($7.5 million) bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday, a move that could help soothe Chinese anger over her arrest.

Meng Wanzhou, 46, Huawei’s [HWT.UL] chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, faces U.S. claims that she misled multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

In a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Justice William Ehrcke granted bail to Meng, who has been jailed since her arrest on Dec. 1. She will be subject to monitoring, a curfew and other conditions. If a Canadian judge rules the case against Meng is strong enough, Canada’s justice minister must next decide whether to extradite her.

U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he would intervene in the Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

The arrest of Meng has put a further dampener on Chinese relations with the United States and Canada at a time when tensions were already high over an ongoing trade war and U.S. accusations of Chinese spying.

China had threatened severe consequences unless Canada released Meng immediately. Analysts have said retaliation from Beijing over the arrest was likely.

The U.S. State Department is considering issuing a travel warning for its citizens, two sources said on Tuesday, while the Canadian government confirmed that one of its citizens in China had been detained.

Two sources told Reuters the person detained was former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. The Canadian government said it saw no explicit link to the Huawei case.

However, Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, asked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp whether the Kovrig detention was a coincidence, said: “In China there are no coincidences … If they want to send you a message they will send you a message.”

The Chinese embassy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer (CFO), is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters December 6, 2018. Huawei/Handout via REUTERS

ELECTRONIC MONITORING

Meng was detained as part of a U.S. investigation on Dec. 1 as she was changing planes in Vancouver. She has said she is innocent and will contest the allegations in the United States if she is extradited.

Tuesday was the third day of bail hearings. Meng’s defense had cited her longstanding ties to Canada, properties she owns in Vancouver and fears for her health while incarcerated.

Her family assured the court she would remain in Vancouver at one of her family houses in an affluent neighborhood if she was granted bail, according to court documents. Her husband said he plans to bring the couple’s daughter to Vancouver to attend school, and Meng had said she would be grateful for the chance to read a novel after years of working hard.

She must remain in Canada, include five guarantors on her bail and be subject to electronic monitoring and security when she leaves her residence.

The courtroom erupted in applause when the judge granted bail. Meng began crying and hugged her lawyers, before being ordered back into the prisoner box for more directions from the judge. She was ordered to reappear in court on Feb. 6 to make plans for further appearances.

Slideshow (13 Images)

Huawei, which makes smartphones and network equipment, said in a statement it looked forward to a “timely resolution” of the case.

“We have every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach a just conclusion,” it said, adding that it complied with all laws and regulations where it operates.

Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones, with revenue of about $92 billion last year. Unlike other big Chinese technology firms, it does much of its business overseas.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver; writing by Nick Zieminski and Rosalba O’Brien; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in Beijing, John Ruwitch in Shanghai and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Rigby



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Asia stocks up on Sino-U.S. trade hopes, sterling nurses losses

Asia stocks up on Sino-U.S. trade hopes, sterling nurses losses


SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian stock markets edged ahead on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald trump sounded upbeat about a trade deal with China, while sterling struggled with talk of an imminent party coup against British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Men look at stock quotation boards outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

In an interview with Reuters, Trump said talks were taking place with Beijing by phone and he would not raise tariffs on Chinese imports until he was sure about a deal.

Trump also said he would intervene in the Justice Department’s case against a top executive at China’s Huawei Technologies if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal.

A Canadian court on Tuesday granted bail to the executive in a move that could help placate Chinese officials angered by her arrest.

Markets were careful to not get too optimistic and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan firmed a modest 0.27 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.5 percent, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.07 percent.

Sterling slid on reports Conservative lawmakers could vote on a no confidence motion in May’s leadership as soon as Wednesday night.

The political ructions come a day after her decision to delay a vote in parliament on her Brexit deal for fear of a rout angered many in her Conservative Party.

The news sent the pound reeling to a 2-month trough of $1.2484, a loss of 1.9 percent in just two sessions.

The euro climbed to 90.62 pence, even as it eased on the dollar to $1.1325. The dollar was being viewed as the best of a bad bunch and rose to 97.466 on a basket of currencies.

“The market is concerned that May could be replaced by a Brexit-supporter, increasing the chance of a no-deal scenario,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at NAB.

“Bottom line: there is great uncertainty about whether Theresa May can survive as PM and what the prospects are for a general election, new referendum or a hard Brexit.”

“CHOP-FEST”

Sentiment had got a brief lift on Tuesday from reports China was considering cutting import tariffs on American-made cars to 15 percent from the current 40 percent.

Yet there were also reports the U.S. would release evidence this week detailing Chinese hacking and economic espionage.

“Even if this (auto) step is taken it just removes what was a retaliatory measure to begin with,” noted ANZ economist David Plank. “Whatever the case, market price action is somewhat of a chop-fest, right now, as it swings around on each new headline.”

Markets had also been jolted when Trump threatened to shut down the government over funding for a wall he has promised to build on the southern border with Mexico.

Such cross currents left Wall Street mixed, with the Dow down 0.22 percent and the S&P 500 0.04 percent, while the Nasdaq added 0.16 percent.

Investors were looking ahead to the U.S consumer price report later on Wednesday where an expected slowdown in headline inflation would only reinforce speculation of fewer rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

Wagers on a more restrained Fed helped gold steady near a five-month peak of $1,244.12 an ounce.

Oil bounced a little after industry data showed a surprisingly large draw on stockpiles. [O/R]

U.S. crude rose 50 cents to $52.15 a barrel in Asia. Brent futures had closed 54 cents firmer at $60.51.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam



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Trump awarded nearly $300,000 in legal fees in Daniels defamation lawsuit

Trump awarded nearly $300,000 in legal fees in Daniels defamation lawsuit


FILE PHOTO: Stormy Daniels, the porn star currently in legal battles with U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a ceremony in her honor in West Hollywood, California, U.S., May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Adult film actress Stormy Daniels must pay more than $290,000 to reimburse President Donald Trump for legal fees he spent defending himself in a defamation lawsuit she brought against him over a tweet, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, lost her defamation lawsuit in October, with a federal judge in Los Angeles saying the president’s tweet was protected by the freedom of speech clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Following that ruling, Trump’s attorneys at a hearing last week requested nearly $800,000 in legal fees and sanctions, but U.S. District Judge James Otero in his latest ruling awarded a fraction of the sum.

Otero’s ruling awarded Trump most of the legal costs his attorneys had sought, but only $1,000 in sanctions.

“The court’s order, along with the court’s prior order dismissing Stormy Daniels’ defamation case against the president, together constitute a total victory for the president, and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels in this case,” Charles Harder, an attorney for Trump, said in a statement.

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, in a statement suggested the attorneys’ fees in the defamation case were of small importance in Daniels’ broader litigation battle with Trump.

Daniels, who has written a “tell-all” book about Trump called “Full Disclosure,” has separate from the defamation lawsuit gone to court to challenge the validity of a $130,000 hush money agreement over a tryst she claimed she and Trump had more than a decade ago.

Trump has denied he had an affair with Daniels, saying she was paid to stop “false and extortionist accusations.”

Daniels sued Trump for defamation after he denied her assertion that she had a sexual encounter with him in 2006 and disputed her account that she was threatened in 2011 for agreeing to a press interview about the alleged encounter.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Dana Feldman; editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker



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Trump agrees to freeze higher tariffs on $200B in Chinese goods — for now

Trump expresses openness to using Huawei CFO as bargaining chip in China trade talks


Asked by Reuters in an interview if he would intervene in the case, Trump said, “Whatever’s good for this country, I would do.”

He continued, “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Trump’s comments signal that the arrest of the tech giant’s CFO in Canada could play a major role as the US and China continue trade talks, which began December 1 with the meeting of the President and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. The talks are expected to last 90 days.

The President told Reuters that his administration would “probably” have additional in-person meetings with key officials and their Chinese counterparts, noting that negotiations are taking place via telephone, and, if necessary, he would be open to meeting with Xi again. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is leading the US side of the talks.

Meng was arrested December 1 in Canada during a layover at Vancouver International Airport at the request of the US government. The United States alleges that Meng helped Huawei get around US sanctions on Iran by telling financial institutions such as HSBC that a Huawei subsidiary, Skycom, was a separate and unaffiliated company.

Meng was released on a $10 million Canadian bail, a judge in Canada ruled earlier Tuesday. She faces extradition to the United States.

As a condition of her release, Meng has agreed to surrender her passports and live in one of her homes in Vancouver. She will also pay for a round-the-clock security detail and wear a GPS ankle bracelet.

The arrest angered Beijing, which summoned its US and Canadian ambassadors over the weekend, alarmed investors, and continued to raise doubts about the fragile trade truce between the US and China.

Trump told Reuters he has not yet spoken with Xi about the case.

“They have not called me yet. They are talking to my people. But they have not called me yet,” he said.

The US Justice Department has declined to comment to Reuters on the case. Meng faces “serious charges of fraud involving millions of dollars” in the United States, according to the affidavit of a Canadian law enforcement official. She could receive substantial jail time if convicted, the statement said.

CNN’s Julia Horowitz, Alberto Moya, Scott McLean, and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.



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Exclusive: Trump says standing by Saudi crown prince despite pleas from Senate

Exclusive: Trump says standing by Saudi crown prince despite pleas from Senate


U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he stood by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince despite a CIA assessment that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and pleas from U.S. senators for Trump to condemn the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Trump refused to comment on whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder, but he provided perhaps his most explicit show of support for the prince since Khashoggi’s death more than two months ago.

“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office.

Asked by Reuters if standing by the kingdom meant standing by the prince, known as MbS, Trump responded: “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”

Some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent MbS from becoming king, sources close to the royal court have told Reuters, and believe that the United States and Trump could play a determining role.

“I just haven’t heard that,” Trump said. “Honestly, I can’t comment on it because I had not heard that at all. In fact, if anything, I’ve heard that he’s very strongly in power.”

Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall



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Exclusive: Trump says he could intervene in U.S. case against Huawei CFO

Exclusive: Trump says he could intervene in U.S. case against Huawei CFO


U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene in the Justice Department’s case against a top executive at China’s Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada Dec. 1 and has been accused by the United States of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

When asked if he would intervene with the Justice Department in her case, Trump said in an interview with Reuters: “Whatever’s good for this country, I would do.”

“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said.

A Canadian court on Tuesday granted Meng bail while she awaits a hearing for extradition to the United States, a move that could help placate Chinese officials angered by her arrest.

Trump also said the White House has spoken with the Justice Department about the case, as well as Chinese officials.

“They have not called me yet. They are talking to my people. But they have not called me yet,” he said when asked if he has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the case.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Rigby



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At least two dead, 11 wounded in French Christmas market shooting

Gunman kills at least two in French Christmas market and flees


STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – A gunman on a security watchlist killed at least two people and wounded at least 11 others near the picturesque Christmas market in the historic French city of Strasbourg on Tuesday evening before fleeing.

The aftermath of a shooting is seen in Strasbourg, France December 11, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. TWITTER/@CMM_NOTICIAS/@MARIOSAAVEDRA/via REUTERS

With France still on high alert after a wave of attacks commissioned or inspired by Islamic State militants since early 2015, the counter-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation.

Amid fast-moving, confusing scenes it was not clear if the suspect, identified by police as Strasbourg-born Chekatt Cherif, 29, had been cornered by commandos or had slipped the dragnet.

Medics at the scene and police sources told journalists four people had been killed. But in a statement at 2215 GMT, the local prefecture was still saying two people had died.

The attack began at about 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) as stallholders prepared to close down and the city’s restaurants filled up. Bystanders were swiftly ushered into nearby shops.

“There was confusion initially but they locked the front doors pretty soon after the gunshots,” said U.S. citizen Elizabeth Osterwisch, who was sheltering on the top floor of the Galeries Lafayette department store. “They moved us several times, eventually settling on the place with the most protection.”

European Parliament lawmaker Emmanuel Maurel said he had heard the shots.

“From my hotel window I saw passers-by dragging someone who was injured and onlookers panicking,” he tweeted. “Soldiers and police have cordoned off the area. We’re being told to stay in the hotel.”

MANHUNT

A source close to the operation said the suspect had been cornered and shots had been fired. But an hour or so later, a police source said he was still on the run.

The European Parliament, which is sitting in Strasbourg this week, was put into lockdown.

Strasbourg lies on the west bank of the Rhine river. On the opposite side, German police tightened border controls, officials said.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the gunman was known to security services, and the local prefecture said he was on an intelligence services watchlist.

A Reuters reporter was among 30 to 40 people being held in the basement of a supermarket for their own safety, waiting for police to clear the area. Lights were switched off and bottles of water handed out.

Security was tight this year for the Christmas market, popular with visitors to the city’s old quarter, with its Gothic cathedral and half-timbered houses.

Unauthorized vehicles were excluded from surrounding streets during opening hours and checkpoints were set up on bridges and access points to search pedestrians’ bags.

The Paris prosecutor said the motive for the attack was not known. No one immediately claimed responsibility but the U.S.-based Site intelligence group, which monitors jihadist websites, said Islamic State supporters were celebrating.

Sources familiar with the police operation said the suspect’s home had been raided earlier in the day in connection with a robbery during the summer, but he was not found there.

President Emmanuel Macron was being updated on events, an Elysee Palace official said. Castaner was on his way to Strasbourg.

WATCHLIST

Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, the EU executive, tweeted: “My thoughts are with the victims of the Strasbourg shooting, which I condemn with the utmost firmness. Strasbourg is an excellent symbol of peace and European Democracy. Values that we will always defend.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “shocked and saddened”. City authorities said the market and all cultural attractions would be closed on Wednesday.

Some 26,000 individuals suspected of posing a security risk to France are on the “S File” watchlist, of whom about 10,000 are believed to have been radicalized, sometimes in fundamentalist Salafist Muslim mosques, online or abroad.

European security agencies have feared for some time that Islamist militants who left Europe to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq would return after the jihadist group’s defeat, with the skills and motivation to carry out attacks at home.

Slideshow (16 Images)

Secular France has been grappling with how to respond to both homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following attacks in Paris, Nice, Marseille and beyond since 2015.

In 2016, a truck plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, killing more than 80 people, while in November 2015, coordinated Islamist militant attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris claimed about 130 lives. There have also been attacks in Paris on a policeman on the Champs-Elysees avenue, the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store.

Almost exactly two years ago, a Tunisian Islamist rammed a hijacked truck into a Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 11 people as well as the driver.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac in Strasbourg and Christian Hartmann, Emmanuel Jarry, Michel Rose and Inti Landauro in Paris and Kevin Liffey in London; writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Kevin Liffey



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