French Gendarme Who Swapped Places With Hostage During Siege Dies

Arnaud Beltrame died after offering to be swapped for a female hostage

Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, 44, was among the first officers to respond to the attack Friday on the supermarket in the southern French town of Trebes.

His actions were described as heroic by politicians across the political spectrum.

Speaking during the visit to Jerusalem of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Netanyahu said: "We grieve with you over the loss of innocent French lives and of a true hero, the officer Arnaud Beltrame, a hero of humanity, not only a hero of France, and we understand this very well". It gave no further details.

Arnaud was killed on Friday during a shooting spree and hostage-taking around the towns of Carcassonne and Trebes by Radouane Lakdim, a Moroccan-born French national, that left four people dead and three injured. One officer was hit in the shoulder, but the injury was not serious, Lefebvre said.

The shootings come as France remains on high alert following a string of deadly attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.

Beltrame's death took the number killed to four.

It's not the first time a gunman and hostage-taker in a French supermarket has made a demand on behalf of fellow jihadis. Most of the people in the shop escaped after hiding in a cold storage room and then fleeing through an emergency exit.

After agreeing to the hostage swap, Beltrame surrendered his weapon - but kept his cellphone on, allowing authorities outside the Super U market in the southern French town of Trebes to hear what was happening inside. He said his group's research showed that almost 70 per cent of the terrorist incidents and plots perpetrated or hatched in France in 2017 were ultimately against police or military personnel.

A national ceremony is now being planned to formally honour the courageous actions of Beltrame.

#ArnaudBeltrame was a trending topic on the social network where people expressed their respect and gratitude for the officer, and thoughts for his wife.

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Several cities, the National Assembly and police stations across France flew their flags at half-mast in his honour.

"This attack has been claimed by ISIS, and it is now being analyzed", Macron said.

Following the worst militant attack of his presidency, Macron has called a meeting later this week of the security services monitoring individuals suspected of radicalisation.

Police were still holding two people as part of the investigation - a woman connected to Lakdim and a 17-year-old male said to be one of his friends, the judicial source said. Police also found notes referring to ISIS at the terrorist's home.

His comments were condemned by the party and Mr Melenchon, who said on Twitter that he would file a complaint against him for justifying terrorism.

France is part of a group of countries whose warplanes have been bombing Islamic State strongholds in Iraq and Syria, where in recent months IS has lost much of a self-proclaimed "caliphate" of territory it seized in 2014.

During the standoff, Lakdim requested the release of Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving assailant of the November 13, 2015, attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

Beltrame, who would have turned 45 in April, was a qualified parachutist who served in Iraq in 2005.

The violence began yesterday (March 23) morning in Carcassone, France where 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim hijacked a vehicle, killing the passenger and injuring the driver.

Lakdim also gunned down a customer at the butcher's counter: 65-year-old Herve Sosna, a retired builder.

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