Reporter's Notebook: France faces double dose of violence

PARIS  - France is facing double violent trouble these days.

On Friday, officials assessed the situation in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, as a two-day manhunt ended with the killing by police of the man responsible for a terror attack on the Christmas market earlier in the week. It is just one of many terror strikes the country has seen in recent years.

Some 700 French police and soldiers were involved in the hunt, made even more complicated by the city being on the border with Germany and near Switzerland. Officials from those two countries were involved in the hunt as well.

The brutality of the act, in which the attacker shot and knifed people in the center of the picturesque town was underscored by an increase in the casualty toll Friday, to four dead and some dozen injured, with several still in the hospital.

In the end, the gunman stayed close to his home of Strasbourg. Working off a tip from an eyewitness, police cornered him and killed him in a shootout.

The man police say is responsible for the carnage, 29 year old Cherif Chekat, was a French native, born of Algerian parents. He was described as a “thug” who was in and out of jail for common crimes for much of his life, coming to extremism late in his “career.”

According to Regis Le Sommier, editor of the leading Paris Match magazine, “…all of a sudden in the last few days we saw him open an account on “Telegram,” which we know is the common network for terrorists to communicate with. He then began to show radicalization.”

Seven more people have been held as authorities look to see if he had any assistance. Strasbourg re-opened the Christmas market Friday, an act of defiance against the terrorists and to seek normalcy for life there.

A few hundred miles away in Paris, though, owners of stores, restaurants, and operators of several landmarks were getting ready to close on Saturday. This came as the fifth weekend of the so-called “Yellow Vest” protests was set to start.

This anti-government movement aimed at high taxes, low wages and the government of President Emmanuel Macron, seen as out of touch with the people, has picked up steam in recent weeks. The last two weekends have seen real violence in Paris and elsewhere as militant extremists mixed in with the demonstrators. It was some of the worst street violence seen in France in decades.

Despite concessions offered by Macron earlier this week, and the attention given by the country to the terror attack, all signs are that there could be more trouble Saturday, and the protest is not showing signs of going away.

“It is deeply rooted in a certain category of people, especially it’s the French middle class,” Paris Match editor Le Sommier explained to us. “They are sliding towards poverty and that’s a very dangerous sign of possible unrest and a movement that could be lasting for quite awhile.”

In fact, while some observers think the economic unrest could take a break over the holiday period here, most expect it to get rolling again in January, when new bills come in.

For a country with a revolutionary past, France is dealing with modern-day violence, of several kinds, with no sure way clear.