France raised its security alert on Tuesday night in the wake of the shooting attack at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, AFP reports.

A gunman killed at least three people and wounded a dozen others at the famed Christmas market before fleeing the scene, authorities said.

A manhunt for the gunman continues after he opened fire at around 8:00 p.m. local time on one of the city's busiest streets, sending crowds of evening shoppers fleeing for safety.

Soldiers patrolling the area as part of regular anti-terror operations exchanged fire with the suspect and wounded him, but could not stop him escaping, police sources said.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner confirmed early Wednesday morning that the death toll in the attack was three and that 12 had been wounded.

Castaner also said France had raised its security alert level to "emergency attack" with "the implementation of reinforced border controls and tightened controls on all Christmas markets in France to avoid the risk of a copycat" attack.

The gunman has been identified and was on a watchlist of suspected extremists, a statement from local security services said.

Two separate security sources told AFP on condition of anonymity that the shooter was believed to be a 29-year-old from the city, whose name was given as Cherif.

According to the officials, the suspect had been set to be arrested on Tuesday morning as part of an investigation over an attempted murder.

France has been under a heightened alert in recent years and has suffered numerous terrorist attacks, including several over the past few months.

In May, a knifeman shouting "Allahu Akbar" killed one person and injured four in Paris before being shot dead by police. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist organization.

In March, three people were killed in a shooting spree and hostage siege in southern France, which was also claimed by ISIS.

ISIS also claimed two attacks in France last year: The April 20 shooting of a policeman on Paris's emblematic Champs Elysees and an October 1 attack in the Marseille railway station that killed two people.

The biggest attack in France in recent years was the attack in November of 2015 in which 129 people were murdered and which was also claimed by ISIS.

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