A heroic police officer who swapped place with a woman hostage during yesterday’s terror attack in France has died from his injuries.
Arnaud Beltrame, a 45-year-old lieutenant-colonel had been praised for his bravery by French President Emmanuel Macron.
After storming a supermarket in the quiet town of Trèbes in south-west France, terrorist Redouane Lakdim agreed to let some hostages go but kept one woman back as a human shield.
Mr Beltrame then offered to take her place and Lakdim agreed.
He is understood to have suffered a life-threatening throat injury after being shot several times.
When he was with the terrorist, he left a phone on a table so colleagues could hear what was happening, Le Parisien reports.
Three people were killed and 16 injured, two of them critically.
Macron called the killings an act of “Islamist terrorism”, but said security services were still checking whether the Islamic State group was really behind the attack, as it claims.
Describing officer Beltrame, the French President said: “He saved lives, and honors his duty and our country.”
Interior Minister Gérard Collomb tweeted last night: “He died for his country.
“France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.”
Macron continued: “I want to tell the nation tonight of my absolute determination in leading this fight.”
“I urge our fellow French citizens to remain aware of the terrorist threat, but to also be aware of the force and resistance our people demonstrated each and every time it was attacked.”
Morocco-born Ladkim, 26, was known for petty crimes and possession of drugs, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in the aftermath of today’s attack, adding that he acted alone.
The bloodshed began when Ladkim killed one person with a bullet in the head while stealing a car in Carcassonne, a walled city with a medieval citadel that is one of France’s top tourist attractions.
Driving the stolen car, he then pulled up beside four police officers who were jogging in the city and opened fire, hitting one in the shoulder, then sped off to Trebes, about 5 miles to the east, where he took the hostages in the supermarket.
Ladkim ran into the Super U store shouting ‘Alluha Akbar’ and stating that he was a soldier of the Islamic State.
He opened fire, killing a customer and a supermarket worker instantly.
Another supermarket worker, named only as Francois, told how he took a group of customers to hide in a cold storage area after the shooting started.
“I was in my department when I heard gunshots. I went to the area of the gunshots and came face to face with the person,” said Francois.
“He raised his gun and fired, I ran away, he shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and spoke about the Islamic State.
“I then evacuated the clients, about 20, who were in my area and we went quietly out of the back,” said Francois, who has been employed at the supermarket since last November.
Collomb said Lakdim was from nearby Carcassonne, a tourist hot-spot known for its medieval city centre, where the attacks started.
“He was known for petty crimes. We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalisation,” Collomb said, before adding: “He was known for possession of drugs, we couldn’t have said that he was a radical that would carry out an attack.”
The attacker took several hostages after shooting at off-duty police officers in the nearby town of Carcassonne.
The hostage taker called for the release of Salah Abdeslam , the Islamic State terrorist who is also of Moroccan descent.
Abdeslam, 28, is currently in solitary confinement in a high-security prison near Paris, while awaiting trial.
Abdeslam has admitted helping coordinate the 2015 attacks, but failed to let off his suicide bomb vest out the Stade de France, France’s national sports stadium, during a football match between France and Germany.
A source involved in today’s terrorist incident said: “The hostage taker is in touch with police negotiators and has called for the release of Abdeslam.”
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, describing Lakdim as a “soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the attack in response to the calls to attack Coalition countries”.