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French city opens famed Christmas market year after attack

French city opens famed Christmas market year after attack
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Strasbourg (France): The celebrated Christmas market in France's eastern city of Strasbourg opened for another festive season Friday, with shopkeepers and visitors vowing not to be cowed by an attack last year by a radical Islamist gunman that killed five people.

The annual celebrations around a giant Christmas tree will be shadowed by the events of December 11, 2018 when Cherif Chekatt, 29, went on the rampage at the market. This year, some 500 members of the security forces will be on duty -- in uniform and plain clothes -- and checks are being set up around the city centre. "We have no specific elements of concern -- terrorist or otherwise -- concerning the Christmas market in Strasbourg", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told the Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace newspaper.

Castener, who was to visit the market later Friday, said he wanted to "bring a message of vigilance but also calm, confidence and an invitation to the festivities."

The stallholders who run some 300 wooden chalets selling local produce, souvenirs and Christmas products say they are still haunted by memories of the attack but that the market's work must go on.

Setting out her wares at the stall where she has worked for half a century, Monique Kuprycz-Adam said that the atmosphere was still oppressive but there was no questioning of shunning the event.

"My family has done the Christmas market since 1906. That (closing the stall) would show that we are scared and is out of the question," she said.

The historic Christmas market, which is being held in the city for the 450th year, is of key economic importance for Strasbourg and other cities and towns of northeastern France.

Every year sees a huge influx of visitors, with 2 million expected in Strasbourg and 1.5 million awaited in nearby Colmar, home to one of France's prettiest markets, to enjoy the shopping and goblets of mulled wine. The Strasbourg market, which will stay open until December 30, has a budget of up to five million euros (USD 5.5 million) but brings in 250 million euros (USD 275 million) in income for the city.

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