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France Pays Tribute To Policeman Hailed As ‘Hero’ During Attack


File photo shows French Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, who was hailed as a 'hero.'

France paid tribute to the policeman who swapped himself for a hostage and was fatally wounded during the March 23 terror attack in southern France, with President Emmanuel Macron hailing him as "a hero."

Macron on March 24 said Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, 44, deserved "the respect and admiration of the whole nation" for giving his life in the shooting and hostage-taking that killed three people in the city of Trebes, 100 kilometers southeast of Toulouse.

At least 16 other people were injured and the 25-year-old gunman was also shot dead as police stormed the supermarket where hostages were being held to end a four-hour standoff in what was called a “terrorist attack.”

The president's office announced that a national tribute would be held for the slain police officer, although details were not yet finalized.

Tributes came from outside France as well, with British Prime Minister Theresa May writing in a tweet that his "sacrifice and courage will never be forgotten."

A mass will be celebrated by the bishop of Carcassonne and Narbonne on March 25 in Trebes, where a prayer vigil for the all the victims will be held on March 29.

Officials told reporters that police had managed to get some of the 50 hostages out of the supermarket but that the gunman held one woman as a human shield.

Beltrame then volunteered to swap himself for her. As he did, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

Prosecutors identified the gunman as Redouane Lakdim, a French citizen born in Morocco, calling him a small-time drug dealer with a history of minor crimes.

France's top counterterrorism investigators said Ladkim yelled "Allahu akbar" and claimed he was a "soldier of the Islamic State" as he stormed the market.

A security source told AFP that Lakdim was armed with a gun, knife, and homemade explosive devices.

The BBC reported sources as saying Lakdim had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

On March 24, the Paris prosecutors' office said police had detained a 17-year-old in connection with the investigation. The unidentified teenager was arrested overnight over alleged criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise. He is a friend of Ladkim, the prosecutor's office said.

Another person, a woman close to Lakdim, was taken into custody on the same grounds on March 23.

U.S. President Donald Trump on March 24 tweeted his support for the victims of the shooting, writing that he condemns "the violent actions of the attacker and anyone who would provide him support."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and AP
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