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British politicians locked into European Parliament after Strasbourg attack

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Strasbourg on lock down after a deadly gun attack (Reuters)

British politicians spent most of the night in the European Parliament for their own safety after a gun attack in Strasbourg in which two were killed and a dozen more badly injured.

The parliament, which is about a 20-minute walk from the city centre, was put on lockdown by the French police when the attack took place at around 8pm local time on Wednesday.

Nathan Gill, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Wales, revealed his wife and five children had a lucky escape from the attack.

They left the Christmas market where the shooting took place to join him at the parliament just on time, he explained on Twitter.

The parliament was eventually evacuated at around 3am, with those inside given police escorts back to their accommodation.

But not before a fierce row broke out between MEPs and the parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, over how the process would be carried out.

Tajani called MEPs inside the building to the main plenary chamber to give them an update on the security situation and how the evacuation would work.

Some MEPs were concerned that not enough attention was being paid to the welfare of staff.

Julie Ward, an MEP for north-west England, said the president “cannot tell us anything about the security situation outside” and added: “We remain very concerned for our staff and victims of the shootings.”

Other MEPs had already left the building and were eating in the city centre when the attack happened.

Derek Vaughan, an MEP for Wales, explained he was locked into a restaurant before being given a police escort to outside the police cordon which was established around the city centre.

The parliament resumed its business at 10am on Wednesday despite the gunman still being at large.

Tajani opened proceedings by saying: “This was a criminal attack against peace, democracy and our way of life. We must react by doing exactly the opposite of those who wish to harm democracy.

“We must press ahead. We must not change our habits. Thats why last night we continued to work in the plenary. We completed our business at midnight.

“Today we are here to continue because the strength of freedom and democracy win our against violence of crime and terrorism.”

MEPs will hold a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack later before voting on a package of measures designed to improve European coordination against terrorism.

France has raised its security threat to the highest level of alert, with the government urging the public to stay where they are as they hunt for the gunman.

The suspect has been named as Strasbourg resident Cherif Chekatt, 29, who had been previously identified as a potential threat to national security.

Security forces are involved in a manhunt across northeast France, though the country’s deputy interior minister told French radio it was possible the attacker may have left the country.

Border controls have been tightened in both France and Germany, with 600 members of the security forces reported to be looking for the gunman.

With files from Reuters