Published: Sat, March 24, 2018
Life&Culture | By Ben Goodman

Slain French officer Col Arnaud Beltrame's mother not surprised by his courage

Slain French officer Col Arnaud Beltrame's mother not surprised by his courage

A French police officer who swapped himself for a hostage in a supermarket siege on Friday has died.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, 45, was among a group of officers who rushed to the scene in the town of Trebes in southwest France Friday after the attacker, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, stormed a supermarket and fired at shoppers and staff.

At the supermarket, an Interior Ministry senior official who traded places with one of the hostages was shot by the assailant and is reported to be in a serious condition.

President Emmanuel Macron had said of Mr Beltrame's actions: "He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country".

Security forces killed the gunman - believed to be a Moroccan who was on a watchlist of suspected extremists - after he carried out three separate attacks in the medieval town of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes. Sixteen people were injured in the attack.

One person, who is thought to be Lakdim's partner, has been arrested and the family's apartment in Carcassone has been raided.

Whether the attacker had any direct contact with the Islamic State remained unclear.

"I bow to the courage, the sense of sacrifice and the exemplary nature of this officer who gave his life for the freedom of the hostages", the French National Police tweeted.

The attacker then drove off towards Trèbes, about five miles away, where he dumped the hijacked vehicle in the auto park of a supermarket before storming into the Super U store, and shooting dead a shop worker and a customer.

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But when he went inside the supermarket on Friday, he had given up his own weapon and volunteered himself in exchange for a female hostage. "I saw an open door for a refrigerated area and I told people to come to shelter there", she said.

Police stormed into the supermarket and killed the gunman once they heard gunshots inside.

France also suffered major attacks in Paris in November 2015 when IS jihadists killed 130 people in bombings and shootings at bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert venue and the national stadium.

Macron pushed through a tough counterterrorism law a year ago that gives police extra powers to conduct searches and hold people under house arrest.

Beltrame is the seventh member of France's security forces to be killed in a jihadist attack since 2012.

Lakdim's trajectory appears to have followed a grimly familiar pattern in France over recent years of young men progressing from petty crimes into terrorism, often despite surveillance by the authorities.

Mr Menassi confirmed the gunman is alone in the supermarket with another police officer.

"He was added to the list because of his radicalisation and his links with the Salafist movement" of ultra-conservative Islamism, Francois Molins, France's top anti-terror prosecutor, said at a press conference in Carcassonne.

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