Published: Sat, March 24, 2018
Culture | By Glenn Strickland

French gendarme who traded places with hostage is dead -minister

French gendarme who traded places with hostage is dead -minister

The violence began on Friday morning in Carcassonne, where Lakdim hijacked a vehicle, killing one passenger - whose body was later found hidden in a bush - and injuring the driver.

Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame volunteered to be the last hostage during the attacks in southern France and had been "fighting against death" for several hours before finally succumbing to his injuries.

The local prosecutors office were treating the incident as a terror attack and said the gunman had claimed to be acting in the name of IS.

Col. Arnaud Beltrame was among the first officers to respond to the attack on the supermarket in the south of France on Friday.

Unbeknownst to the Morocco-born hostage-taker, he left his cellphone on so police outside could hear what was happening in the store. Officials said once they heard shots inside the market they chose to storm it.

Associated Press journalists Elaine Ganley. Macron said security services were checking that claim.

Lakdim, a French national born in Morrocco, was known by police for petty crimes and possession of drugs - for which he spent one month in jail in 2016.

A source close to the probe said a Moroccan man had been identified as the hostage-taking suspect.

At a press conference in Trebes, Collomb said the suspect first hijacked a auto in the southern city of Carcassonne before heading to Trebes.

Lakdim is then believed to have driven a short distance to the small town of Trèbes, where he stormed into the Super-U supermarket, shouting, "I am a soldier of Daesh [Islamic State]!" The police were wearing athletic clothes with police insignia.

He pulled up in the auto to four police officers who were jogging in the city and opened fire, hitting one in the shoulder, then sped off to Trebes, about 8 km (5 miles) to the east, where he took the hostages in the supermarket.

Special police units converged on the scene while authorities blocked roads. He shouted "Allahu akbar!" - the Arabic phrase for God is great - and said he was a "soldier of the Islamic State" as he entered the Super U, where about 50 people were inside, Molins said.

Guibbert said he put his wife, sister-in-law and other shoppers in the meat locker for safety. "There were more gunshots and we went out the emergency back door".

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"At that moment, he (the gunman) ran after me".

He then shot and wounded a policeman who was jogging with colleagues.

'They managed to get some of the people out, ' he said.

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.

The violence unfolded when the attacker stole a auto, killing one person in the vehicle and gravely wounding another, said Collomb, the interior minister.

In February, Collomb said French security forces had foiled two planned attacks so far this year as Islamic State militants set their sights on domestic targets in response to the group's military setbacks in Iraq and Syria. France has been repeatedly targeted because of its participation.

A police officer who swapped himself for a hostage in a supermarket siege is fighting for his life in hospital, French President Emmanuel Macron says. The gunman was killed but Lt-Col Beltrame was injured.

BFM television said Beltrame recently took part in a training exercise simulating a terrorist attack.

When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket.

"He acted alone, there was no one else but him", he added.

France has been hit by several deadly jihadist attacks since 2015 and has been on high alert since, though a state of emergency was lifted a year ago. It was lifted late previous year. But subsequent investigations by intelligence services had not turned up any signs he would act, he said.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the Eiffel Tower would turn its lights off at midnight in tribute to the victims. One of those attacks, against a kosher supermarket in Paris, seemed to foreshadow this week's deadly assault in the south.

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