Policeman who swapped places with hostage dies — Trèbes supermarket attack

Policeman who swapped places with hostage dies — Trèbes supermarket attack

Among the dead in southern France was a police officer who offered himself up Friday to an Islamic extremist gunman in exchange for a hostage during the attack.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack was in response to its call to target Western enemies - as is customary when an assailant has pledged allegiance to the extremists.

The Paris prosecutor's office said counterterrorism authorities have assumed control of the investigation.

A memorial Mass is being celebrated in the southern French town of Trèbes, in honour of four victims killed by an Islamist gunman on Friday. A team of about a dozen officers entered the building and quickly shot dead the attacker.

Beltrame went for training for the gendarmerie, and for the Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, where the missions included hostage rescue and counter-terrorism.

- by Elaine Ganley in Paris.

"He had been on a watchlist for his radicalisation and links to the Salafist movement", said top anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins.

"We stand in solidarity with the people and government of France, and wish the injured a swift recovery", the ministry said. (AAP) Arnaud Beltrame married his partner, Marielle, on his deathbed yesterday.

Mr Collomb later confirmed French police officer Col. Arnaud Beltrame who offered to swap places with a female hostage had died after police scrambled to the store shortly after midday.

Beltrame, 44, was a lieutenant-colonel in the gendarmerie, a part of the French military that focuses on domestic policing.

Earlier Friday, Lakdim hijacked a car in nearby Carcassonne and shot the two people inside, killing the passenger and leaving the Portuguese driver in a critical condition.

One officer is wounded after being hit in the shoulder.

According to the statement, Beltrame joined the elite police special forces in 2003 and deployed to Iraq in 2005.

"Now is the time only for prayer and compassion", he said. He must have known that he didn't really have a chance. His nose was round and bright red, his face as white as a sheet. Cedric Beltrame also stressed that his brother kept his professional reflexes.

One multiple attack by Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris while another killed close to 90 when a man ran a truck into partying crowds in the Riviera seaside city of Nice.

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He says there's "so much bravery around the world" in the fight against IS but adds, "Even stronger measures needed, especially at borders!"

In 2012, he was knighted in France's prestigious Legion of Honor. He hid his family and other customers in a meat locker and then called the police.

"It was terrifying", she said.

After the interior minister, Gérard Collomb, said he believed Lakdim had acted alone, on Sunday police were continuing to question a 17-year-old as well as Lakdim's 18-year-old girlfriend.

The expat magnet has a population of just 5,000.

According to witnesses, Lakdim stormed into the Super-U supermarket in the small town of Trèb, shouting, "I am a soldier of Daesh [ISIL]!" Molins didn't identify her.

Macron said of Beltrame: "In offering himself as a hostage to the terrorist holed up in the Trebes supermarket, lieutenant colonel Beltrame saved the life of a civilian hostage, showing exceptional self-sacrifice and courage".

The militant organisation Islamic State took the responsibility of the attack. France has been repeatedly targeted because of its participation.

Read on for a look at who Beltrame was.

"He would have said to me, 'I'm doing my job, Mom, nothing more,"' she said.

Beltrame was one of the first officers to respond.

"We had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised", Interior Minister Collomb said after flying to the scene.

Inside the market itself, investigators found three homemade explosive devices, a handgun and a hunting knife, the official said.

The French police officer has been hailed a hero in a country that has been shaken by a number of terrorist attacks over recent years.

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