French officer who swapped places with a hostage passes away
A French police officer who had offered himself to an extremist gunman in exchange for a hostage has succumbed to his injuries and passed away, the French interior ministry said on Saturday. Col. Arnaud Beltrame's death raises the body count to four in the attack which took place in the city of Trebes in Southern France The gunman has been killed. Here's more.
The gunman, Moroccan-born Redouane Lakdim, who reportedly had ties to the Islamic State, first hijacked a car in Trebes, killing one person and injuring another. He then opened fire on police officers who were out for a jog before heading to the Super U supermarket where he killed two people and took an unknown number of people as hostages. 15 people were injured.
"I went to see what was happening and I saw a man lying on the floor and another person, very agitated, who had a gun in one hand and a knife in the other," said shopper Christian Guibbert who was an eyewitness to the attack.
Officer Beltrame offered himself in exchange for a female hostage at the Super U supermarket. The heroic officer also surreptitiously kept his cell phone on-call, so the policemen outside could hear his conversation with the gunman. Upon hearing shots, the policemen and special units outside the supermarket stormed it and killed the gunman. Beltrame was rushed to a hospital.
During the standoff, Lakdim demanded the release of Salah Abdesalam, the sole surviving assailant from the Paris attack of November 2015 which left 130 people dead. The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said that Lakdim was responding to the Islamic State's calls to target countries in the US-led coalition which is carrying out airstrikes against IS terrorists in Syria. An investigation is currently under way.
Lakdim was already known to the police for petty crime and drug dealing. However, in 2014, he was placed on the so-called "Fiche S" list, a government register keeping for tabs on individuals suspected of being radicalized but who hadn't carried out an attack. In the ongoing investigations, a woman who was "very close" to Lakdim and "shared his life" has been detained.