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The Latest: French minister says Strasbourg gunman killed 3

The latest on the fatal shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg (all times local):

2:40 a.m.

France's interior minister says a gunman "sowed terror" in three parts of the eastern city of Strasbourg with a shooting spree that killed three people and left six others with serious injuries.

Earlier police union officials had said four people were killed. Officials did not explain the reason for the conflicting death tolls.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said early Wednesday that some 350 security officers and two helicopters are involved in the search for the assailant after the Tuesday night attack.

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He told reporters in Strasbourg that France is raising its terror alert level and sending security reinforcements to Strasbourg. At the same time he said the city is lifting its confinement order after hours of lockdown in multiple neighborhoods.

A terrorism investigation has been opened. The motive for the attack is unclear.

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1:45 a.m.

Strasbourg police are starting to release thousands of people confined in buildings in the area of a deadly terrorist attack near the French city's Christmas market.

An Associated Press photographer was among about 5,000 people in a basketball stadium at the time of the Tuesday night shooting when everyone was ordered to lock down and stay inside. He described stupefaction among the crowd, which included some families.

Police started letting them out some five hours later, in groups of about 100. A police helicopter is circling overhead, and entire neighborhoods of the city remain cordoned off.

The stadium is across from the European Parliament, where those inside were also put on lockdown. It's unclear whether they are also being released.

The shooter is still at large. A terrorism investigation is under way.

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12:10 a.m.

The mayor of Strasbourg says the gunman behind the fatal shootings near the French city's Christmas market got inside a security zone to stage the attack.

Mayor Roland Ries said on BFM television that about 100 people still were locked down in restaurants and other buildings in the area late Tuesday. The gunman is still at large, but reportedly wounded.

French news reports suggested there was scattered shooting in multiple locations over several hours. Ries said in a Facebook post the famed Christmas market would be closed Wednesday and reopened after that, He is considering closing schools as well.

The mayor lamented that a "catastrophe" occurred despite what he called "draconian security measures" around the market since the terrorist attacks in Paris three years ago. He said it was unclear how the attacker entered the "interior of the (security) bubble."

A terrorism investigation was opened but the motive for the attack is unclear.

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11:50 p.m.

A witness in France has told the BBC that one of the people shot and killed in the city of Strasbourg was a Thai tourist who suffered a head wound and didn't respond to efforts to revive him.

Peter Fritz said after the gunfire near a Christmas market: "We tried our best to resuscitate him. We applied CPR. We dragged him into a restaurant close by."

He says the man was in his 30s and his wife appeared to be unharmed but in shock.

Fritz says it took more than 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. He said an emergency doctor advised by telephone "that any further efforts would be futile."

Fritz said of the victim: "He is still here in this restaurant but we have abandoned all hope for him."

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11:35 p.m.

Residents of central Strasbourg describe hearing a series of gunshots and screaming in the street during an attack near a Christmas market that killed four people.

Resident Yoann Bazard said by telephone he heard "two or three shots" and the screams before he went to a window and saw people running Tuesday night.

The 27-year-old said: "After that I closed the shutters. Then I heard more shots, closer this time."

Bazard continued: "There were two or three episodes like that....As it got close, it was really shocking. There were a lot of screams."

Freelance journalist Camille Belsoeur says he was at a friend's apartment on the same street and at first mistook the gunfire for firecrackers.

Belsoeur said: "We opened the window . I saw a soldier firing shots, about 12 to 15 shots."

He says other soldiers yelled for people to stay indoors and shouted 'Go home! Go home!'" to those outside.

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11:20 p.m.

Two French police union officials say four people have died after a gunman started shooting near Strasbourg's Christmas market and the suspect was wounded, but is still at large.

One of the officials, Stephane Morisse from the FGP Police union, told The Associated Press authorities went to the alleged assailant's residence earlier Tuesday to arrest him but the 29-year-old suspected of ties to radicalism wasn't there. Morisse says police found explosive materials at the home.

Morisse said that after the evening shooting, soldiers guarding the Christmas market shot and wounded the suspect before he escaped.

A terrorism investigation has been opened into Tuesday's attack, which put parts of the city on lockdown.

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11 p.m.

The European Parliament president says that legislative sessions will continue for the rest of the week despite the attack in Strasbourg and the lockdown of the building.

Antonio Tajani said that the legislature "will not be intimidated by terrorist or criminal attacks. Let us move on."

Several MEPs were close to the market when the shooting started and have in holed up in hotels, restaurants or the legislature itself as police were looking for the suspect. At least two people have been killed and 11 others wounded, several of them in critical condition. The gunman is still at large and French prosecutors have opened a terror investigation.

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10:25 p.m.

French prosecutors say a terror investigation has been opened into the shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg that has left two dead and up to eight wounded, including several in critical condition.

The Paris prosecutor, who is in charge of anti-terror probes in France, is heading to Strasbourg, according to a statement from his office. The prosecutor's office says the investigation is for murder and attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise.

The gunman, who is at large, has been identified and has a criminal record. The prefect of the Strasbourg region says the gunman had been flagged as a suspected extremist.

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10 p.m.

France's interior minister says that two people have been killed and up to eight wounded in a shooting near Strasbourg's Christmas market.

Christophe Castaner told reporters that several of the wounded are in critical condition. He said that the gunman, who is still at large, has been identified and he has a criminal record.

It wasn't immediately clear if terrorism was the motive behind the attack.

Castaner added that police operations were still underway and that he would not give further details, saying he would travel to Strasbourg.

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9:50 p.m.

A French regional official says that a shooting in Strasbourg has left at least one dead and 10 wounded in the city center near a world-famous Christmas market.

The prefect of France's Bas-Rhin region says the gunman, who is still at large, has been identified.

Authorities haven't given a motive for the shooting.

The European Parliament spokesman, meanwhile, says that the building is on lockdown in Strasbourg. Jaume Duch said that "the European Parliament has been closed and no one can leave until further notice." It wasn't immediately clear how many people were inside.

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9 p.m.

French media have reported a shooting in Strasbourg, and the Interior Ministry has called on the public to remain indoors amid a "serious security event" in the city center.

Local authorities in the Grand-Est and Bas-Rhin region tweeted for the public to "avoid the area of the police station," which is close to the city's Christmas market. 

French news broadcaster BFM TV said there were "several people injured," citing local police.

Some Strasbourg residents have reported hearing gunfire in some parts of the city center.

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