US troops in Europe told to check in after deadly Christmas market attack
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. military commands in Europe were accounting for personnel Wednesday after a suspected terrorist attack near a Christmas market in Strasbourg, but so far there is no sign that any members of the American military community in Europe were caught in the crossfire.
On Tuesday night, a gunman opened fire in the area around the Strasbourg Christmas market, killing three people and injuring at least a dozen others.
The market, which is near France’s border with Germany, is a popular destination for Americans at nearby military bases. Ramstein Air Base and other large commands posted notices on their social media accounts calling for all personnel to check in with their command chains.
U.S. European Command said it has received no reports indicating that any U.S. personnel were in the area or affected by the attack. EUCOM said it is urging members of the military community to maintain their vigilance, but the command added it is not issuing any new travel restrictions.
Still, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz’s recreation department canceled all remaining trips to France this month and is offering refunds. Ramstein Air Base’s sponsored trips to France have been canceled until further notice, and officials there urged personnel to “carefully evaluate” their travel plans following the Strasbourg shooting and ongoing political protests throughout the country.
There are about 65,000 U.S. active duty servicemembers in Europe, with roughly half based in Germany.
After the attack, Germany tightened security at its borders while French authorities launched a manhunt for the suspect. Authorities said the 29-year-old suspect was already known to law enforcement as a possible terrorist threat. Grenades were found at the suspect’s apartment, French media reported.
The U.S. Embassy in Berlin has issued a warning to Americans in Germany, urging visitors to be vigilant when visiting a Christmas market.
“Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations such as Christmas holiday markets, shopping malls, airports, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, transportation hubs, and other soft targets frequented by Westerners,” the Embassy said in a travel alert last week.
Meanwhile, security at Christmas markets in France was expected to be increased.
There has been widespread worry in recent years about security at Christmas markets, which are soft targets for terrorists. Heavily armed police have become fixtures at the popular sites in France and Germany.
In 2016, a terrorist drove a truck into Berlin’s Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring more than 50 others. Since then, barricades and guardrails have been put in place at numerous market locations to block traffic.