Strasbourg market shooting
© Reuters / Vincent Kessler
French special forces secure an area during a police operation in Strasbourg.
French police have killed the main suspect in the Strasbourg Christmas market shooting, Cherif Chekat, following a dramatic, helicopter-assisted police raid in a city-center district, the country's Interior Minister confirmed.

The French police mounted a massive operation in Strasbourg on Thursday, involving armed officers from the elite RAID police unit and the helicopter. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner confirmed that the suspect was "neutralized" in the raid.

Three or four gunshots shots were fired in the city's La Meinau district. The suspect, earlier identified as 29-year-old Cherif Chekat, was first to shoot at the officers and was killed by return fire.

Photos have surfaced on social media allegedly showing Chekat's body. They depict a man with a gunshot wound to the head lying on the pavement with a gun next to him.

There were also videos of Strasbourg residents giving a standing ovation to the law enforcers over the successful operation.

Tuesday's attack at a popular Christmas market left three people dead and a dozen wounded. Chekat was shouting "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire at the unsuspecting shoppers.

The perpetrator was injured in the arm during a shootout with the police on Tuesday but managed to hijack a taxi and flee the scene, triggering a manhunt.

Chekat had a huge criminal record, being convicted 27 times for various offenses committed in France, Germany and Switzerland. He was shadowed by DGSI, France's homeland security agency, for harboring extremist views.

The Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group rushed to claim responsibility for the attack, saying through its propaganda mouthpiece that it was a revenge on the coalition by one of its militants, yet failed to back the claim with any evidence.