An officer who was wounded after changing places with a hostage during a supermarket siege in southwestern France has died. The death toll is now four in what President Macron called an “Islamist terrorist attack.”
A French policeman who voluntarily swapped places with a hostage during a siege on a supermarket in the town of Trebes on Friday has died of his bullet injuries.
Arnaud Beltrame, who once served in Iraq, had been rushed to hospital after being shot three times.
“He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous rampage of a jihadist terrorist,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement shortly before dawn on Saturday.
French police have detained a 17-year-old in connection with the probe into the terror attack that killed four people, including Beltrame.
The man is a friend of Friday’s attacker, identified by prosecutors as Redouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old Moroccan-born French national. Lakdim was killed in a shootout at the supermarket.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Friday another person, a woman close to Lakdim, was taken into custody over alleged links to the terror attack. Molins didn’t identify her.
‘Not surprised by son’s courage’
On Friday, officer Beltrame offered himself up unarmed to the attacker in exchange for a female hostage. He managed to keep his cellphone on, enabling his colleagues outside to listen in on events inside the supermarket.
When they heard shots being fired, the police stormed the building and killed the gunman.
Beltrame’s mother said she wasn’t surprised by her son’s courage.
“I’m not surprised. I knew it had to be him. He has always been like that. It’s someone, since he was born, who gives everything for his homeland,” she told French RTL radio on Friday before the announcement of his death.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb also lauded the 44-year-old officer’s heroic action. In a tweet, Collomb said Beltrame had died for his country and that France would not forget “his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.”
The national gendarmerie said its flags would fly at half-mast on Saturday in tribute to the slain officer.
‘IS’ claims responsibility
The “Islamic State” (IS)-linked Aamaq news agency said the attacker was responding to the group’s calls to target countries in a US-led military coalition that includes France. The coalition has been fighting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq since 2014.
“Our country has suffered an Islamist terrorist attack,” Macron said on Friday, while noting that investigators were verifying the IS claim.
Macron also said that investigators were looking into how the attacker obtained his gun and when he had become radicalized.
More than 240 people have been killed in France in attacks since 2015 by assailants who either pledged allegiance to “Islamic State” or were inspired by the group.
ap/tj (Reuters, AP, AFP)