French 'hero' police officer Arnaud Beltrame who swapped himself for hostage dies

Arnaud Beltrame: 'Hero' French policeman who swapped himself for hostage in Isis supermarket attack dies

‘Never will France forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice’

Peter Stubley
Saturday 24 March 2018 10:52
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The French police officer who was shot after he swapped himself for a hostage during an Isis-inspired terror attack on a supermarket has died.

Arnaud Beltrame, 44, took the place of a woman being held captive by suspect Redouane Lakdim at the Super U store in Trebes in the south of France.

“He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement on Saturday morning.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb also paid tribute to the gendarme by tweeting that he had “died for his country”.

“Never will France forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice,” he added.

Mr Beltrame, who had served in Iraq in 2005, was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the siege on Friday.

He offered to trade places – unarmed – with a hostage the attacker was still holding. He then entered the store with his mobile phone, which he managed to surreptitiously leave on a table with the line open so colleagues could hear what was happening.

When shots were heard, elite police stormed the building and killed the suspect.

Mr Beltrame, who was shot three times, became the fourth victim of the hostage-taker, a 25 year-old Moroccan-born French national from the nearby city of Carcassonne.

The attack began when Lakdim hijacked a car after injuring the driver and killing a passenger, whose body was later found in bushes.

He then shot at a group of police joggers before driving to the supermarket. Lakdim is reported to have shouted: “I am a solder of Daesh [Isis]”.

He killed a customer and a store worker and seized others as hostages. Most of the people in the store managed to escape by hiding in a cold store before fleeing through an emergency exit.

Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the first deadly terrorist incident since October 2017.

Lakdim, who was known to authorities for drug-dealing and other petty crimes, had been under surveillance by security services in 2016 and 2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.

Beltrame was a qualified parachutist who has worked as part of the elite Republican Guard that protects the presidential Élysée Palace offices and residence in Paris.

His mother told a French radio station that she wasn’t surprised by her son’s courage.

She said: “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.

Mr Macron said of Mr Beltrame: “In offering himself as a hostage to the terrorist holed up in the Trebes supermarket, Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame saved the life of a civilian hostage, showing exceptional self-sacrifice and courage.”

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